Clarkson’s Farm: How the Grand Tour petrolhead turned farmerMay 30 | 3 min read
Clarkson’s Farm: How We Made It - 'You can lose more money on sheep than cars!'
Jeremy Clarkson and his team, including girlfriend Lisa Hogan, reveal how they made their new Amazon Prime Video series Clarkson’s Farm in the face of record bad weather, Brexit and Covid.
Jeremy Clarkson has built a farm. Yes, you read that correctly.
The Grand Tour and Top Gear presenter is switching screaming around the racing track for lambing, crops and a farm shop.
Filmed over 12 months for Amazon Prime Video, Clarkson’s Farm follows the journalist and broadcaster as he attempts to turn his 1,000 acres of land into a functioning farm.
Calamity-filled and battling the worst farming weather in decades as well as a global pandemic, it’s an eventful and surprisingly enlightening series about the challenges, joys and enviromental impact of modern farming.
We heard from Jeremy and his team of farming assistants, including his girlfriend Lisa Hogan, about how they pulled off this TV show…
We had to deal with a triple whammy
“We were very lucky in a sense because if nothing had happened you’d end up with a quite a boring programme,” said Clarkson.
“However, we ended up with Brexit, five separate weather records, and Covid. That’s a treble whammy coming at us.
“Ordinarily for the lambing, we would have had a number of people there to help, because I don’t know how to birth a sheep but because of Covid, we couldn’t have anybody.
"So I had to do it all night long, and I had no idea what I was doing.
“Ordinarily, you’ve always got a film crew on hand that could hold something or pass something, but we only had two people: camera and sound. No director, no production assistants, none of the normal flotsam and jetsam you get on a film crew. I was having to do a lot of the things that I would ordinarily have called on an expert to help with.”
Jeremy loved the sheep… but isn’t going vegan
“They were great, but expensive,” said Clarkson. “There’s simply no money in sheep farming, it’s a brutal existence. You have to pay somebody £1.45 to give a sheep a haircut, but the fleece is only worth 30p. How do you run a business where you’re losing £1.15 for every sheep you shear?
"I’ve owned cars that have depreciated less. Literally, you can lose more money on sheep than cars, it’s just a nightmare.
“However, even though I started out hating them, I ended up liking them because of their wilful disobedience. I just thought, ‘How hard can it be? You put sheep in a field, they eat grass, then you eat them’, but it’s just so difficult – and they never get decent illnesses like a cold or a hurty finger, everything they catch is revolting.
“We’ve all seen Kate Humble in an agreeable stable, fresh straw, with a baby lamb, bottle feeding it, but I don’t think many people, myself included, have the first idea how their lamb chop gets to the table.
"I didn’t want to shy away from showing the sheep being castrated, or the deaths, and the disgustingness of it – because that’s how the lamb chops are made. You also see how much money it costs later on, which is terrifying."
Jeremy Clarkson drives slowly for the first time ever
“It was my first driving lesson in 40 years,” admitted Clarkson.
“A tractor has four wheels and a steering wheel, and that’s where the similarity between it and a car ends, because a tractor has got hundreds of buttons - hundreds. This is before you get onto the laptop screens that operate whatever’s on the back. It’s like running a factory while driving a car.
"That’s what you’re actually doing in a tractor, you’re operating a sawmill. It’s a very, very complex thing and all the buttons you find in a factory you find in your tractor. It’s frustrating, because all of the buttons are labelled in German – but even if they were in English I wouldn’t know what they all mean, so I really am in a pickle with that.”
Clarkson’s team let him fail
“You’ve got to let him work it out for himself sometimes,” joked ‘Cheerful’ Charlie Ireland, who helped Clarkson put together the farming operation.
“He decided to literally cut corners in the fields rather than do a cumbersome three-point-turn in his tractor, but that ruined the neat lines and left him without tramlines which show you where you need to spray, and we probably ended up using 15% extra chemicals because there weren’t clear tramlines for the sprayers to follow,” said Charlie.
“So, there are good reasons sometimes why we do things a certain way. It was just about trying to explain that. There were times he’d say, ‘How do I do this quickly’ and I had to say, ‘You can’t’."
The ridiculous Lamborghini tractor
Refusing to accept anything except the biggest and most expensive tractor available, Clarkson rocked up at his farm with a Lamborghini.
“It’s far too big. I think we’re all interested in distracting ourselves from the job in hand with things that are more interesting, and he enjoyed buying a big powerful machine,” laughed Charlie.
“That tractor is ridiculous, far too heavy, it kept breaking and was very unreliable. Something half the size would have done a better job.”
Clarkson’s girlfriend had to step in
“I have ended up learning a lot, largely as Jeremy didn’t have a clue and I’m quite practical,” said Lisa Hogan.
“The Lamborghini was fabulous to drive, I’d never sowed crops before, but in that machine, it’s a thrill. But my little Massey Ferguson tractor is even better, it’s so nippy and loyal, doesn’t need much attention, doesn’t speak in a language I don’t understand, it just does the job.”
Talking about his partner’s efforts, Clarkson said: “She does work her socks off, she’s there in the shop now. I think she’s really enjoying doing that, because she’s even less of a country girl than I am – though she’ll probably say different.
“She was born in Dublin and has lived in Switzerland, Majorca, and London... and yet there she is with her filthy Doc Martens on, stomping around, running that farm shop and loving it.”
Ellen the shepherdess, who was brought in to help Clarkson with his lambing, got great amusement at watching the TV presenter blunder through the process.
“But because of Covid, Jeremy had to do most of it himself. So he had to catch the sheep, which was quite entertaining. He hadn’t done a lot of handling before, and that looks harder than it is, but he got there,” said Ellen.
“Because I couldn’t be next to him, he was going in and I was trying to ask him, ‘What can you feel?’ He was like, ‘There’s nothing there, there’s nothing there’. I was like, ‘There should be something there!’
“So we swapped places, and I was like, ‘Which hole were you going in, because there’s definitely a lamb here’. He was going up her bum!
“He was being nice and gentle with her but he just hadn’t gone in the right hole.”
This might not be the end for Clarkson’s farm
Clarkson’s new best mate and farming buddy Kaleb Cooper (pictured with Jeremy, above) believes that there is a future for Clarkson’s Farm beyond 2021.
“I think we’re carrying on as we are, he’s sticking with the farming and I’m helping him out as and when,” said Kaleb.
“I’m doing all the drilling and he’s doing all the planning and all the office work – there’s so much office work, honestly. He jumps on the tractor when I need him, which is ideal for me.
“We’ve got the fish and the chickens are coming back at the end of the month because they’ve been on lockdown. We’re about to get busy again, we’ve got a load of fertiliser spreading to do and some spraying. We’re going to keep going, and we’re going to concentrate on the farm shop I hope.
“Everything we grow can go into the farm shop, and I just want the whole farm to get bigger and bigger.”
Clarkson’s Farm is released on Friday, June 11 on Amazon Prime Video