“Let’s Farm”

Have you caught up with Clarkson’s Farm yet? It seems everyone is talking about it and suddenly interested. We can share our experiences with friends over a pint and we’ve noticed they’re really immersed in finding out what we actually do all day (and often all night)! It seems farming’s the thing, with “Our Yorkshire Farm” and “Clarkson’s Farm” making armchair farmers of the Great British public.

I can’t help but spot the similarities though between my own 16-year-old son and Jeremy Clarkson’s 21-year-old farm contractor Kaleb (Cooper) – launched into the spotlight by Amazon’s highest rated show ever.

Since he was a nipper all he wanted to do was work on the farm, helping out in the holidays. Drawn to mates with a similar passion; all tractor mad, with hours of Farming Simulator and Grassman videos as their main entertainment.

(Although I noticed, they weren’t enthusiastic sweeping up the grain store a few weeks back!)

If I’m honest our son never loved school, sitting indoors pouring over books just wasn’t his thing. Driving the tractors up to Romsey (yes, from Keyhaven) with his mates on their last day of school, posing proudly for photos. Just in case staff needed evidence of what’s next for these boys, post GCSE’s!  And since leaving in May (hallelujah) he’s gone from “struggling through school to enthusiastic … on a crazy scale.”

I’ve discovered a new-found respect for Jeremy Clarkson though. Deciding to farm his own 1,000-acre “Diddly Squat” farm after the contractor announced retirement.

Going into it absolutely blind. With no farming experience. Coping with the wettest Autumn on record, disobedient sheep, rotting potatoes, failing crops (10 acres of rape obliterated thanks to every arable farmer’s nemesis the “cabbage stemmed flea beetle”), too big a tractor for the barn (yes, it might be a Lamborghini) and a global pandemic.

You could say ignorance is bliss.

But this opinionated, often offensive, impatient 59-year-old Top Gear presenter with his litany of “great” ideas, has lent more and more on his straight-talking, Chipping Norton born and bred, side-kick Kaleb.

From knocking in fence posts to extracting machinery out of Jeremy’s latest folly, Kaleb epitomises the passion and skills of today’s young farmer.

Like my son, Kaleb doesn’t seem to have loved school, avoids books but loves the outdoors and is naturally practically minded. Demonstrating a strong work ethic, deep-rooted understanding of farming, patience and an inability to be phased, by anything.

I’m pleased Clarkson’s Farm hasn’t dumbed down how gruelling and weather dependent the day-to-day grind of farming is. But never one to shy away from chaos, discomfort and controversy, Jeremy Clarkson is the model of patience, hard work, hope and determination.  Even showing sympathy for farmers!

Telling his land agent “cheerful” Charlie “the next time you hear a farmer moaning about the weather, put your arm around him and buy him a pint. He’s not moaning because it’s miserable working in the rain, he’s moaning because it’s crucifying.”

But what’s really great is how they’re inspiring a new generation of farmers.

And why not? There’s a huge range of opportunities available.

For those who love the outdoors, lack classroom confidence, find school tricky, like working alone or in a small team and haven’t stumbled on the right path yet.

Farming offers such a broad spectrum of opportunities. Take Kaleb, with his own contract farming business at 21 and Clarkson’s young shepherdess Ellen Helliwell.

I’m incredibly passionate about training the next generation of young farmers, and now in my 9th year as governor of Winchester’s Sparsholt College I’m immensely proud of the huge range of practical courses on offer.

Taking on students from town, cities and countryside – farming and non-farming backgrounds. Learning skills that take them into farming, engineering, machinery, crop management, livestock, dairy, feed merchants, agronomy, animal health, research, agricultural training, renewables and sustainable farming.  Plus all the non-agricultural courses in Animal Management, Game & Wildlife, Equine, Aquatics & Fish, Horticulture, Arboriculture, Sport and many more.

We’re lucky to have some fantastic local producers in the Hampshire region offering lots of career opportunities: Barfoots of Botley, New Forest Fruit, White Water Potatoes (supplying Walkers crisps) and Vitacress are just a few.

With my son and his mates just starting their first week at Sparsholt College they have spent the summer getting stuck into helping out on the farm – avoiding sweeping – but bagging as much practical experience as they can.  Just like Jeremy Clarkson with his latest loves: Lamborghini tractors and the great British weather!