What do real farmers think of Diddly Squat Farm?
The first season of “Clarkson’s Farm” on Amazon Prime Video followed Jeremy Clarkson as he attempted to manage a 1,000 acre farm in Chipping Norton during the pandemic with the help of a team of experienced farmers, including Kaleb Cooper, Cheerful Charlie, and Gerald Cooper. The show touched on several important issues facing UK farming, including the reliance on chemicals, unpredictable weather, and the profits of farming.
Initially I didn’t think it would be worth bothering about. I grew up with Top Gear, watching it start as a car review programme and slowly morph into an outlandish scripted over the top slapstick comedy show with cars as a loose theme. Honestly I’d lost interest in it in the last few years as it became more and more contrived and I expected the same from Clarkson’s Farm.
A good friend, who is a big supporter of British Agriculture, told me I should watch it. “It’s done more for farming than any episode of countryfile ever has”. He’s a bit of a petrol head, so I took it with a pinch of salt, but gave it a go anyway when I found myself with a few hours to spare in the limited daylight of the Scottish Winter.
So what was an accurate depiction of British Farming Life and what wasn’t?
What was Accurate on Clarkson’s Farm?
Your sheep are rarely where you left them
The cost to employ anyone makes most activities cost prohibitive
Raising animals for food is hard, both physically and emotionally
If you didn’t love it you wouldn’t do it
It’s not about the money
Most farmers buy a tractor that is too big
Tractors have become so complex, you need to be from the Playstation generation to operate them
The incomers can’t understand a word the locals say
Understanding the locals – Never Easy!
Sheep are never where you left them
What was not accurate on Clarkson’s Farm?
The NFU does not send its attractive young female representative to teach you how to hitch implements to your tractor, then stop to have a picnic with you in your field
The head of the National Sheep Association is not on call to help you with your sheep
You don’t buy a massive tractor then fit it with tiny implements
Lamborghini tractors are not cool in farming circles
Not a service we have ever had from the NFU
A very small cultivator for such a big tractor
What did I, and my fellow farmers make of Clarkson’s Farm?
Clarkson is the most relatable he’s been for years. He shows genuine compassion, emotion and empathy for rural life, it’s struggles and the rewards they bring. He perfectly sums up the contradiction that is farming. If you look at it from a purely economic point of view, it can at times, seem completely pointless. A years worth of work can be ruined by one day of rain.
The fleece of a sheep is worth one third of the cost to clip it off. Beetles might come and eat all the plants you sowed last autumn, then when you re-seed in spring there isn’t enough rain to make them grow.
But as any farmer will tell you, it’s not about the money. Most of us are happy if we can end the year without going further into debt, we can afford to replace some stock, make the payments on our machinery and keep the sheds in good repair.
There might be a bit of cash leftover for a holiday (4 days at the Highland Show, or a visit to the family down south – as long as it can tie in with a day at the cattle market)
Jeremy sums this sentiment up on numerous occasions throughout the show – looking out at his sheep after realising they have cost him more money to keep his grass down than a mower would have and declaring “he doesn’t care – he likes his sheep”
Life as a sheep farmer
He demonstrates very well the genuine cognitive dissonance we all suffer from when the animals we’ve looked after reach the end of the line – for whatever reason, be it they can’t breed or they are injured, or they were raised for food and it’s time to go to the abattoir.
It’s always been a bitter sweet part of the process, and its hard to explain to people who have never raised animals for food. “How can you say you care about them, then send them off to be make into steaks”.
Our philosophy has always been to give them a good life, a painless end and respect them by putting their products to good use, such as feeding and clothing humanity.
No farmer will ever tell you they don’t have a tinge of sadness when their animals go. There is always a favourite; one that was hand reared, always came to say hello in the field or was sick an needed a bit more looking after.
On the flip side, there are also the ones that have kicked you in the nuts, jumped through all your fences and cost you more in vet bills that they are actually worth, so it’s swings and roundabouts! There are ones you are less sad to see go…
Too Much Horsepower
Another relatable part of the show is when Jeremey comes home with his new tractor. It’s far too big – but what farmer hasn’t gone and gotten a few more horse-power than they really need to do the job, and chosen the model of tractor based on emotion rather than useful metrics such as cost, reliability and practicality.
I’m a John Deere man, so when Jeremy tuns up in a 270hp Lamborghini, I’m not actually that impressed. Lamborghinis were seen as a bit crap when I was a youngster, so although Clarkson’s one looks cool I think most UK farmers were shaking their heads when he turned up in his show pony. We can also all relate to calling the local tractor dealer to find out why his tractor won’t move.
It’s something we all experience these days as they become more and more complicated. None of us are very impressed when the “mechanic” turns up in a clean boilersuit, plugs in his laptop to reset a sensor then sends you a bill for £500.
Not the first time a new tractor hasn’t fitted into an old shed
Jeremy is also seen going to a machinery auction to pick up kit for the back of the tractor, and this is the bit – not the oversized tractor, but the undersized implements he bought – that had me shaking my head. He’s got big fields… wide gates… a lot of acres to work… and he buys a 3 meter cultivator and seed drill?
Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. He could easily have doubled or even tripled the width of both and more than halved the time it takes to prepare and seed his fields with only a small increase in diesel consumption. I drove a 270hp John Deere in Australia with a 12 meter seed drill so he has a lot of potential to upgrade.
Why would anyone be a farmer?
What Clarkson’s farm shows really well is the main positive of farming – the characters and the community. Growing up on the farm, I often wished I could live in a town and played football with my mates, but looking back on it now – as Clarkson says at the end of the “lockdown” episode – I don’t really want to be anywhere else.
There is a lot of fun/slightly stupid things we got up to as kids I can relate to. Things we’d have been unlikely to have done if we lived in a town. The scene with Kaleb sledging on a car bonnet pulled by the tractor is an activity my brothers and I also took part in with an old Subaru pick up and plastic sledge.
I still have friction burns up my back from getting thrown off and skidding down a grass field. A turn was taken too tightly which sent the sledge into warp speed. “not intentional, honest” according to my smirking brother.
Gerald could be any one of the characters around my village, doing honest work with a smile on his face, confusing incomers with his impenetrable accent. People like him really add to the colour of living in the countryside, and I rather have a pint with them than a cocktail in the city.
Some people in the village don’t like Clarkson because of his antics – not unusual for any farmer to have a few people in the area who don’t fully understand the challenges farmers face and the seemingly anti-social things we have to do from time to time to make a living.
Looking after our animals to keep good quality, affordable food on the plates of our fellow Brits does mean a road will be blocked or a whiff of poo will waft into the village from time to time.
The Diddly Squat Farm Shop is a good idea. However, it shows the gap between a rich celebrity and most ordinary farmers. Not many of us can afford to put up a nice building at the drop of a hat to sell a few potatoes. It’s the right thing to do though – going direct to the consumer and cutting out the supermarkets is good for the farmer and the customer.
90% of all food costs are in storage, distribution and sales. The bigger slice of that the farmers can take, the more will be reinvested back into our local communities, buying more efficient equipment and maintaining our farms in good working order. As I said previously, the majority of us are in it to continue a legacy, do what we love and keep the countryside looking good for everyone to enjoy.
Most of what any of us earn goes straight back into the business. Clarkson’s farm sums up that sentiment in a relatable way, and hopefully it gets more people behind British Agriculture and frequenting their local farm shops.
When will season 2 of Clarkson’s Farm be released?
Season 2 of Clarkson’s Farm will be released on Amazon Prime on Friday 10th Of February 2023
Diddly Squat Farm Facts
Diddly Squat Farm is located in Oxfordshire, England.
Diddly Squat Farm Shop address is 5-12 Chipping Norton Rd, Chadlington, Chipping Norton OX7 3PE
It was formerly part of the Sarsden estate and was purchased by Jeremy Clarkson in 2008.
The farm covers approximately 1,000 acres and is primarily used for growing arable crops such as barley, rapeseed, and wheat.
Prior to Jeremy Clarkson’s decision to farm the land himself, it was managed by a local villager named Howard.
The farm was renamed “Diddly Squat” by Clarkson, a slang term meaning “the least amount,” “anything,” or “nothing.”
Diddly Squat reportedly cost Clarkson about £6 million, or $8.2 million (USD).
An estimate of what the farm is currently worth, puts it at £12.5 million when compared to similar farms around the Cotswolds.
How much does Jeremy Clarkson get paid by Amazon for Clarkson’s farm?. No official figures have been released but Clarkson is reported to be on a £10 million per year from Amazon, which includes his work on The Grand Tour
How much money does Diddly Squat farm make? Jeremy revealed a profit of £144 in his first year of running the farm. Not much for all that work! His profits are likely to have improved now with the opening of Diddly Squat Farm Shop
Clarkson’s Farm Episode Summary
Episode 1: “Tractoring” – The importance of understanding the proper use and limitations of farming equipment
Clarkson attempts to run a farm but finds that his knowledge of tractoring is underwhelming. He purchases an expensive Lamborghini R8 only to find it too complex to operate and thus fails to cultivate the land correctly. His work is further hindered by heavy rain.
Episode 2: “Sheeping” – The challenges and responsibilities of raising and caring for a herd of sheep.
With DEFRA subsidies in place, Clarkson acquires 78 North Country Mules from an auction in order to “mow” the 300 acres of meadows. However, the herd proves difficult to control and requires extra measures like an electric fence and barking drone for herding.
Episode 3: “Shopping” – The value of utilizing social media and effective marketing strategies to sell farm produce.
Clarkson sets up a farm shop with the goal of quickly selling potatoes before they rot. He promotes it through social media, which contributes to the shop’s success, as a large number of customers are drawn in.
Episode 4: “Wilding”: The benefits of incorporating natural elements and practices into a farm.
Clarkson dedicates parts of his farm for nature conservation – a process called wilding. In order to facilitate this, he uses an excavator to create a pond and wetland area, builds a dam on a nearby stream for water supply and adds 250 brown trout, as well as installing bird boxes and obtaining four bee hives for honey production and crop pollination.
Episode 5: “Pan(dem)icking” – The impact of external events such as the COVID-19 pandemic on a farm’s operations and financial success.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, farm workers are key workers and help Clarkson with lambing season. Clarkson decides to plant vegetables instead of barley, as pubs have shut down, and opens a farm shop to sell the remaining potatoes.
Episode 6: “Melting” – The importance of planning for and managing adverse weather conditions.
A dry spell in April–May 2020 affects Clarkson’s crops, so he turns to a nearby stream for water, but this is insufficient for his vegetables. He gives a virtual tour of his farm for an inspection from Assured Food Standards for Red Tractor accreditation.
Episode 7: “Fluffing” – The difficulties of successfully selling specialty crops and the importance of finding the right market for them.
Lisa stocks the farm shop with locally-sourced produce, but nothing from the farm. Clarkson harvests honey from the bee hives and tasks Kaleb with selling wasabi plants to London restaurants. Despite their efforts, the wasabi sells poorly and eventually rots in the shop.
Episode 8: “Harvesting” – The challenges of coordinating and executing a successful harvest, and the impact of factors such as weather and market prices on a farm’s financial success.
Clarkson struggles to harvest both barley and rape simultaneously, hiring a combine to store the barley. He obtains good prices for his wheat at a local mill, but due to poor weather conditions he only makes £144 profit on arable farming for the year.
Where is Diddly Squat Farm
Diddly Squat farm shop is between Chipping Norton and Chadlington
5-12 Chipping Norton Rd, Chadlington, Chipping Norton OX7 3PE
Diddly Squat Farm Location