Clarkson’s Farm

Seasons 1-3 on Amazon Prime

Seasons 1 & 2 on 9Now

There used to be two kinds of people in this world. Type one were those who thought Jeremy Clarkson was a boorish oaf; type two were those who also thought this, but didn’t mind watching him on the telly. 

Now, there is type three. People who have started watching Clarkson’s Farm and have seen another side to him. 

Season 3 of Clarkson’s Farm dropped in May. As one who discovered it late, I am amazed at how popular it has become.

First, a quick explainer. Jeremy Clarkson, an outspoken motoring journalist best known for the laddish show Top Gear, retreated to the Cotswolds just before COVID to try his hand at farming. A 1000-acre property, which Clarkson soon named Diddly Squat Farm, became the backdrop of a reality show on the Amazon streaming service. 

We were introduced to a cast of local characters from the village of Chadlington in Oxfordshire. There’s Kaleb, the tractor driver who is the second star of the show, Charlie the farm specialist and money man who brings Clarkson back to reality (pardon the pun) from his crazy schemes, Clarkson’s partner Lisa – who is, to put it mildly, long-suffering – and Gerald the stone-waller, who has a West Country accent so thick they don’t even bother subtitling it.

It’s easy to introduce the cast, but hard to explain what happens on the show. It is at times contrived and at times compelling. In Season 1, Clarkson starts by buying a huge, expensive and impractical tractor just because it was made by Lamborghini. After that, he is crash- or crash-through trying his hand at arable farming, animal husbandry and then retailing through a hastily-erected farm shop.

In Season 2, we see just how hard it is to make money. It takes long hours, and what they get is bad weather on good days and good weather on bad days. Then the local council stops them from running the shop and a restaurant – their only chance to start making money and help out nearby farms by selling their produce as well. The local councillors prove to be type one people (ie. Clarkson is a boorish oaf).

It shows how much punch the show has when Diddly Squat Farm becomes an advisor to Downing Street on agricultural policy

So, to the latest series, which begins with the council stalemate over the shop and a visit to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It shows how much punch the show has when Diddly Squat Farm becomes an advisor to Downing Street on agricultural policy. Mind you, one of Kaleb’s contributions to the top-level talks is to tell Sunak that he has “lovely hair”.

Clarkson’s Farm broke Amazon viewing records. British farmers have got behind the show and hailed it as one of the best things to happen to the industry. The show is even a hit in China, among apartment dwellers who love the scenes of rural England.

I don’t want to give any spoilers on Season 3. Let’s just say it is funny, sad and ultimately uplifting. Gerald has a battle with cancer, which brings out a tender side in Clarkson and Kaleb. Lisa and Jeremy try pig farming, which proves heartbreaking when the sows kill the piglets (it’s not even clear whether this is accidental).

Be prepared for the language. Clarkson is still Clarkson. As one Chinese viewer put it, “I’d never seen British people cursing in that way until I watched the show”. 

In this season Clarkson takes responsibility for what he calls “unfarming”. That is, how to turn a quid from side hustles such as jam making and mushroom propagation. Kaleb, who really knows what he is doing, is responsible for the arable side of the farm, including barley and other crops.

In the final episode, they compare which of them has made the most money. Put it this way – there is a reason the farm is called Diddly Squat. 

Throughout the series, I kept thinking of the trials our farmers go through here. One veteran farmer at my church told me he liked how the hardships of agriculture were portrayed in this show for all to see. The farming analogies in the Bible become a lot more real when you see close up what a gift of providence any successful farming must be.

It also shows that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I think it came as a surprise to Clarkson that he’s gone from TV’s bad lad to a poster boy for British farmers. I bet it also shocked many type one people to find they are now cheering him on.