The Clarkson Effect: Unlikely farming champion Jeremy has real potential to impact British agriculture long term
By Charlotte Gilfillan
Unless you have been hiding under a rock this summer, you will not have escaped the phenomenon that is ‘Clarkson’s Farm’. This eight part series on Amazon Prime follows Jeremy Clarkson as he attempts to run his own farm in Oxfordshire, with no previous farming experience and a lot of help from his friends and advisors.
Before watching the show, I was sceptical about how the agricultural element would be portrayed, rather envisaging a Top Gear theme, but with tractors. While Clarkson didn’t disappoint on the tractor front with his antics in the Lamborghini R8, the rest came as quite a surprise, being as educational and real as it was entertaining.
Albeit in true Clarkson style, it was an honest and factual insight into the highs and lows of agriculture, highlighting many of the issues faced by farmers, from bad weather and fluctuating commodity prices to the bureaucracy and red tape, all while dealing with the unique challenges of a global pandemic.
The simplicity and transparency of each episode meant that the average viewer with no prior farming knowledge could understand what was going on and learn along with Clarkson. This coupled with his genuine passion and enthusiasm, unlocked a huge new audience and significantly raised the profile of British farming.
In the wake of the show, Clarkson has continued to be an advocate, speaking out about the UK Government targets for food self-sufficiency and the increasing challenges farmers face. He was recently awarded the NFU 2021 Farming Champion of the Year in recognition of his contributions.
Although this has had a meaningful impact in the short term, I am interested to see what the ‘Clarkson Effect’ will be in the long term. By reaching new audiences and exposing them to where their food comes from and how it is produced, we will hopefully see consumers making conscious decisions to buy more British produce from supermarkets, local farm shops and farmers markets. If ‘Veganuary’ can be cancelled as result too, Clarkson will have my vote for a Knighthood!
One area where there is scope to exact real change is by encouraging more young people into farming, currently a major concern that is threatening the future of agriculture on a global scale. Cue Kaleb Cooper, Clarkson’s Farm manager and right hand man. As a young farmer who is extremely capable and experienced, the enthusiasm he demonstrates for his work is infectious. If Kaleb’s popularity on social media and the letters he receives from people ‘wanting to be a farmer when they grow up’ are anything to go by, he could already have inspired a whole new generation.
Love him or hate him, Clarkson has managed in his own genius and yet unintentional way, to catapult British farming into the hearts and minds of the nation. What is frustrating is why, in a world which is obsessed with reality television, it took so long for something like this to become mainstream. Hopefully the Disney version of farming the general public have been forced to consume in the past, often funded by taxpayers' money, is now off to the abattoir.