When Jeremy Clarkson’s farm manager retired in 2019, he didn’t hire a new one. Instead he thought, “I can do that,” explaining, “You put seeds in the ground, weather happens, it’s not difficult.” Heck, he even decided to add a flock of sheep for good measure. Then experience taught him some things.
“It’s phenomenally difficult and the heartache is extraordinary, plus it’s phenomenally badly paid.”
Clarkson’s solution: “If I get someone to film me doing it, that will offset some of the losses.”
Of course, he has resources most of us don’t. He purchased the 1,000 acre farm in 2008 during the economic downturn that hit some farmers hard. The $5.6 million asking price was just a dent in his $20 million a year salary as a British broadcaster and entertainer. You may have seen him in action as host of “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour.” So, filming his farming experience was a natural step.
I’m not sure if I’m irritated by this new Amazon Prime series, or grateful, or entertained. I started out irritated because here’s a rich guy who thinks his money means he can do anything even though knows nothing at all about farming. Then, as I did some background research for this article, I felt some twinges of gratitude. Maybe Clarkson will be able to do something real farmers haven’t been able to do – shine a light on the difficulties farmers face as they work to feed everyone. And then there’s the entertainment factor. It’s satisfying to see Clarkson get taken down a notch or two by a local, or outwitted by his sheep when he tries to herd them with a drone.
Then I go back to irritated. Clarkson blew up an old farm house as a stunt on “Grand Tour.” Now he’s replacing it with a 12,173 square foot, six-bedroom, three story mansion on the second 312 acre property he purchased for $4.25 million in 2018. That seems a bit excessive. And then I’m grateful again for Clarkson revealing that the wool from his sheep brings in no money at all so he’s going to use it as insulation in his new house. Yes! People need to know the profit margins farmers work within! And finally, I’m entertained by some of the silly accidents he has – just like many of us have had.
I think his neighbors are having some of the same confusion about what to do with Clarkson. Early on, he threw his celebrity weight around to change regulations governing the definition of “local food” so he could expand what he is selling at his on-farm store, a potential boon to other farms and small businesses. Locals argued that the requested increase in the area that Clarkson could gather goods from (an increase from 275 square miles to 2,828 square miles) would be harmful to local businesses. Clarkson ended up getting about half of what he requested. But the controversy highlights the complexities of the economics of farming and some of the regulations governing it.
So, will I watch it when the series premiers on Amazon Prime on June 11? I guess it depends on how much I want to be irritated, feel grateful, or be entertained. I’ll let you know.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Here’s the trailer in case you want to see Clarkson in action. (Adult language warning.)