Disclosure of personal interest:
Let me start with a very personal declaration of interest. I grew up on a small holding. My father grew Brussel sprouts, marrows, wheat and other vegetables on land he rented from the Whitbread estates in Bedfordshire. He had a tractor and trailer, a Mini pickup. A lorry picked up his produce from the loading platform outside our house each night and the next morning the fruits of his labour were sold in Covent Garden Market, which is now home to boutique shops. Many members of my wider family still earn their living from the land.
Even after he gave up his land and worked as an advisor, my holidays were filled with days out walking field after field with my father and our dog Ben. Drinking tea in the farmers’ kitchens and listening to their woes, too much rain, not enough rain, not enough sun, dogs let off the lead by their owners distressing the sheep in lambing, and a whole load of diseases that could change the fortunes of the farmers overnight.
Twice my Dad had to deal with the shock and grief of his clients taking their own lives and each death left its mark on his own well being. Farming is not an easy life, tenant farmers live on a constant knife edge, dairy farmers, as seen recently on Clarkson’s Farm, are forced to take what the supermarkets offer them, while at other times see whole herds lost to bovine TB. And God forbid a landowning farmer sells some land for housing or a wind farm – they are soon portrayed as greedy and selling out to Satan!
And so to Diddly Squat and Jeremy Clarkson:
I believe councillors should support the rural community more – Clarkson’s Farm is all about the rural economy and that is brilliantly portrayed to the audience of the second series. EU Subsidies are going, the stranglehold of the supermarkets on our farming community is almost abusive, costs are rising and the risks and threats to our farmers are as never before. Sadly, the current government seems to have no interest or understanding of the farming industry – ironic as all the farmers I know voted for Brexit!
The idea of a shop and the restaurant using locally grown and reared produce and supporting both Diddly Squat farm and its neighbours is inspired and should be welcomed. Just look at the success of Daylesford. Giving local farmers a high yield for their produce and an outlet that both understands and is interested in them is great.
The heart breaking stories of the dairy farmer who has taken no income herself and how they have lost 60 head of cattle to Bovine TB on their farm adding to the stress of making a living for their family. The pig farmers who cannot sell their pigs due to the shortage of butchers is another example of how bonkers the food production sector has become since Covid and Brexit happened. BPEX – the British Pig Executive – used to say that their members lost £27 per pig reared. It makes you ask “why should people work for free to feed us!”
While Lisa has clearly been naughty with merchandise made in Asia, the concept is one that she and Jeremy should be applauded for developing. In fact all rural councils should be looking to find the same opportunities for their farmers to work together and if one of them happens to be wealthy for being a celebrity or a rock star and can fund the building, all the better for all of them! If farmers cannot make things pay, our food production will slump like the car manufacturing sector.
I have not studied the background of councillors serving in rural communities, but I do wonder how many grew up locally, worked in the farming industry. I do know council leaders who work on or own farms and I know council leaders who have moved to where they serve from towns. The rural communities have lost a lot of their traditional links into local government, although it must be said many county councils remain large agricultural landowners with many tenant farmers.
In landscaping terms, these days you would never allow a collection of buildings to be built in the middle of the countryside. It would harm the view. But look around, for very practical reasons there are farmsteads all over our green and pleasant land, up mountains, down single track lanes and in areas of natural beauty because that is where the buildings are needed, it would be impossible to remove them or hide them from view. In fact, many are listed! And even if Jeremy is rubbish at cutting back the hedgerows, without farmers maintaining the verges and hedges, our country drives would be less enjoyable.
Ignore that Jeremy Clarkson can be a prize arse on occasions and work with him. Let’s not just roar with laughter at Jeremy’s antics with Kaleb, Lisa, Gerald and Charlie on TV but let’s all start to realize we owe a big thank you to our farming community and it’s not wrong to admire someone who is not a born farmer using his imagination to help make a farmer’s life better and respected once again.
My father would have laughed and cried at every episode of Clarksons Farm but he would have wholeheartedly welcomed the spotlight being shone on issues that he lived with all his working life.