Jeremy Clarkson reveals ‘heartache’ filming farming TV series

There are, famously, a lot of things that wind Jeremy Clarkson up. Cycle lanes, electric cars, vegan food – that sort of thing. The broadcaster and columnist has made a career out of saying provocative things about provocative subjects.

But his already-limited patience is severely tested in his latest TV series, which follows the 61-year-old as he attempts to run his own farm in the Cotswolds.

Clarkson’s Farm marks a significant change in direction for the presenter, who is usually known for fronting motoring programmes and ITV’s recent reboot of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

For the last two years, however, cameras have followed him on his Chipping Norton farm as he contends with disobedient animals, problematic weather, broken tractors, unresponsive crops and strict insecticide laws – and that’s before the pandemic even hits. The eight episodes confirm, not that there was any doubt, that being a farmer is extraordinarily hard work.

It’s fair to say he underestimated the challenge at the beginning. “I’ve had the farm since 2008, but I haven’t really been involved with it at all,” Clarkson says ahead of the launch. “A man in the village ran it, and then he retired, and I don’t know what it was, but I just thought ‘I can do that’.

“I genuinely thought you put seeds in the ground, weather happens and then food grows. So I thought ‘that’s not difficult’, but it’s phenomenally difficult and the heartache is extraordinary, plus it’s phenomenally badly paid. So I thought, if I get someone to film me doing it, that will offset some of the losses.”

The heartache refers, in part, to difficult decisions Clarkson is seen having to make throughout the series, such as having sheep put down. “Nobody likes killing an animal,” he comments. “You can’t say ‘I enjoy killing animals’ – you’d be deranged or a sociopath – so you don’t enjoy it, you’ve got to do it, it’s the business. We all like having a roast.”

He pauses for moment. “Well, these days I appreciate some people eat seeds and weeds, but normal people eat meat, and they like a Sunday roast. So it has to happen, and that was my first experience of it. I nearly abdicated the responsibility of taking sheep to the abattoir to someone else, and then I thought ‘no, come on you’ve got to do it.'”

(It’s worth saying that, despite being a regular target of Clarkson’s, the number of vegans in the UK has increased in recent years, with more restaurants and food brands now offering vegan products.)

The new series is Clarkson’s first solo TV venture for Amazon Prime Video, which he joined after getting sacked from Top Gear in 2015. When he, Richard Hammond and James May signed with the streaming service later that year, each was given a deal for a solo TV format in addition to their contracted Grand Tour episodes.

As a result, we’ve seen May launch a cookery programme, Hammond front a survivalist show, and now we have Clarkson harvesting crops and attending sheep auctions.