Neil: Neil from Messick's here, to do a little bit different kind of video for our channel. While here on YouTube, we're generally talking about farm equipment and farm machinery, today, we're going to talk about a television show about Clarkson's Farm. Jeremy Clarkson, from Top Gear, the most popular television show in the world, started farming here in the last year, and made a TV show out of it.
A TV show that I feel is important, both for our industry and for the general consumer population's knowledge and understanding of farming. We're going to discuss a couple of different aspects of the Clarkson's Farm television show today.
Speaker 1: This aging man makes a living from driving fast and shouting random nonsense.
Jeremy: Sideways in linen.
Speaker 1: He also owns a fairly large farm. Just over a year ago, he decided he'd be brilliant at running it. Welcome to Clarkson's Farm.
Neil: First, a little bit about the show. You may not know these names when I rattle them off here, Jeremy Clarkson, or Top Gear. Top Gear is a television show that has been on the BBC for a number of years. It features three different guys who review cars while having a lot of fun at the same time. The show is just as much about the antics of these three guys and the camaraderie that exists between them as it is about cars. It is actually one of my favorite TV shows.
I'm not somebody who goes back and watches shows over and over again, but Top Gear is one show that I do do that with. I have a genuine enjoyment of watching these guys on TV. When I learned that Jeremy Clarkson had started a farm, and started the Diddly Squat Farm Shop before this show was even really being able to be viewed and stuff, I actually bought t-shirts. I have a Diddly Squat Farms t-shirt that I wear around home. For me personally, I was excited to see this happening.
This farm that he had here, as we went into the pandemic, became a television show. He had an Amazon film crew out with him, filming as he learned about farming, about starting a farm, getting animals, and that kind of thing. This show is available on Amazon. If you have an Amazon Prime account, streaming the show is free through Amazon Video. It's not something that you have to pay for an additional subscription service with if you're already paying for Amazon.
Now, I probably can't go through this without giving a couple of spoilers about the show. If you want to not know too much, now might be the time to stop.
Jeremy: This is a Lamborghini R8.
Oh, my God, this thing is enormous. Everything about it is just vast.
Neil: As an equipment dealership, I laughed at certain parts of this show, when it came to the machinery that Jeremy was using on his farm. In good old Jeremy Clarkson style, he went out and bought a Lamborghini tractor, something that's actually a pretty unusual machine. Now, we don't have Lamborghini here in the US. It's not a brand that anybody would know here, domestically, but it's simply a different rebadging of Deutz tractors. The tractor that Jeremy went out and bought was made fun of throughout the show.
Speaker 2: That's too big.
Speaker 3: That is too bloody big.
Speaker 4: It's quite large.
Speaker 2: It's quite big.
Jeremy: Everyone keeps saying it's too-- Everyone says it's too big.
Speaker 4: Should have got a smaller tractor.
Neil: They had a hard time understanding how to run it because of the complexity of the machine, but also that it was way too big for the farm. Speed and power would be one of the things that Jeremy is known for.
Jeremy: It weighs 10 tonnes. I have 40 forwards gears and 40 reverse gears.
I know that little Massey Ferguson was very sweet, but come on.
Neil: When he took it into the applications that he had for his farm, they very quickly found that it was a completely poor fit for the implements that he had. Those implements, I found really interesting, they weren't brands and stuff that we typically see around here. Caverlin for some of his tillage is one of the only things that was actually familiar to me here, domestically, but all of this stuff was really sized differently than what we would typically see on a 550-acre farm here in the States or so.
Our geographic area here has farms of that size, and much of his implements, even though they were way too small for his tractor, were probably 50% or so too small for the size that we would generally run around here. You really got some cool clips from Jeremy when he was out racing against the weather and trying to get all the work done with implements that were simply too small for the fields that he was running in.
Jeremy: The next time a farmer moans about the weather, put your arm around him and buy him a pint, because he's not moaning about it because it's a bit miserable working in the rain. He's moaning about it because it's crucifying.
Neil: The weather was a big factor in the show. I'm out here baking on about a 95-degree day. It's good and hot. In the course of the episodes of the show, though, Jeremy's farm was fighting against the weather conditions, much like what we do in ag from time to time. They would have had some really severe flooding and almost too much rain in the springtime, followed by a severe drought that came about in the summer and really impacted the yields.
Now, the weather is what it is, it comes and goes all the time, but a really interesting observation was made in the course of this show, and Jeremy made some statements that I thought were really telling and really showed his deep understanding of what farmers go through. That was that-- When you hear about your neighboring farmer complaining about the weather, not just to understand that they're frustrated by the working conditions outside, but know how that weather drives down to their profitability, and the way that it impacts crops and yields at the end of the year.
That frustration about weather is not just the day-to-day thing, it's actually their livelihood that really causes some stress when we see weather conditions that aren't really good for growing crops, or in my case, growing my grass seed that's at my house right now. Another really cool connection that comes out in the course of the show is the relationship that Jeremy starts to develop with his animals, sheep in particular, in this case.
At the beginning of the show, you can see he made this decision to go out and get a flock of sheep really in order just to mow the grass, essentially, in order to maintain his fields and keep things mowed off, but he very quickly starts to develop a relationship with those animals, which I think is really cool. A lot of times in the popular media at this point, what tends to come from advocacy and environmental groups is a perception that animals in agricultural settings aren't cared for or loved, in some fashion, by their farmers and their caretakers.
That's very obviously not true. People who dedicate their lives to taking care of animals in an agricultural setting create a real relationship with them over time, even though they ultimately are often sent off to slaughter. In case of Jeremy's show, that very much happened, what started as a simple way to mow the grass over time really became something very meaningful for him in the way that he developed those relationships with his animals.
Jeremy: It's quite a nice thing, really, a very nice thing to be leaning on the gate, looking at my new sheeps.
Neil: It was in the context of that that he made another statement that I thought was really telling, and that was that it was in this, in this caring for his sheep on his farm that is some of the happiest days that he has ever had. This comes from somebody being a major celebrity and big TV star really finding this significant lifestyle with his animals on his farm. One of the ecological problems that you'll find right now is the lack of insects and bees, specifically, in order to pollinate crops and stuff.
The environmental changes that have been happening and the lack of habitat, even for insects anymore, is causing some of their populations to dwindle. One of the ways that Jeremy went through and tried to address that on the show was to set aside areas of the farm for these things to be able to thrive, by wilding certain areas. One area that he needed to do that in was in his woods, by going through and taking the areas where the tree canopy had formed solid leaves, not allowing sunlight and stuff to get down to the forest floor.
When that happens, you don't have good environments for those growth and stuff to happen on the floor. It doesn't create a very good environment for insects and stuff. Went along and cleared out some of the trees, to be able to let that sunlight in. It was in the course of doing that that he bumped into the ecological people out there, your environmentalist activists, in a way, that will look at that kind of stuff and clearing out of trees in a very negative light, and he got this backlash from those kinds of people, about removing those trees.
Speaker 5: There's global warming, and you race about all your life in vehicles.
Neil: At that very time, what he was doing was really something positive for the environment and good forest management. It's something I had bumped into personally, at one point, and could really relate to that, that sometime perspective from your activist type people doesn't really understand the full picture of what's going on despite even when your intentions are very positive. Another connection to that is the regulatory sense that happens at the same time.
All the government requirements for when you're disturbing soils and pushing dirt around and that kind of stuff, that can make some of this stuff actually surprisingly difficult. In the course of going through and wilding some of his areas and trying to have some ponds and that kind of stuff for animals to come to, and areas for fish to be able to swim in ponds, all the water runoff regulations and that kind of stuff became very difficult in order to get that stuff done.
Having been through that stuff personally a lot, you can have very good intentions, really be trying to do your best for the environment, but run afoul of so many of these different things. That was something that made his positive intentions quite difficult. At the end of all of this, the time that these guys took going through farming 550 acres through droughts and floods, and then finally harvesting and getting their products off to market, they walked away with a grand total profit of $550, or £550, if you're British, at the end of the show.
I thought that was really interesting and something important to point out. Now, that was in absence of government subsidies or other income streams that they would've had from the farm, that was basically from row cropping. Important for somebody to understand that when you see a farmer driving around in a $200,000 tractor or harvesting with a half-a-million dollar combine, that doesn't necessarily guarantee that on a regular basis, huge amounts of money are actually making it to the bottom line.
Jeremy: What was the farmers going to do? I mean, honestly, what are they going to do? The ones who don't have Amazon film crews following them around and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire to top up the income? I mean, what do you do when these subsidies start to go down?
Neil: This is a difficult industry in order to be able to turn a profit in on a regular basis. Many of the people that are involved in it are building significant amounts of equity over time, but are often cash poor in the process of doing that. To be able to see somebody actually laying this all out, of taking that row crop through and actually bringing it to market for such little money at the end of the day, I think is important for the general public to be able to see and understand.
I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, an area that is known for agricultural tourism. We get people from all the cities up and down the East Coast coming to our area to learn about the Amish, in particular, the Mennonites, and all the farming that happens here in this area. There's some genuine interest out there, among the general population, and a lack of knowledge anymore, of, one, where your food comes from, but also what it takes in order to produce it.
The cool thing about this show is that Jeremy comes into this with a very open mind. Well, this is somebody that screws around a lot on Top Gear, on their regular show. He took this actually quite seriously, came into it, and tried to run a pretty legitimate farming operation. He had bought about a thousand-acre farm. Now, they put about half of that, about 550 acres into row cropping, and that's where a majority of the work takes place.
Really comes at it in a genuine way to come from that perspective that most of the general public would, of knowing very little about what goes on, and really coming into it and learning about how to make a farm an actual profitable operation. I think the show is really important for that. This is a show that's going to have millions upon millions upon millions of viewers. I believe it already was renewed, now, for a second season because it has been so well received.
Every report that I've been hearing among the farming community has really been cheering this thing on as a great way for our industry to get a lot of exposure to a group of people that are just not understanding it that well anymore.
Jeremy: The past year have been absolutely brilliant.
Neil: Ultimately, I found this show really worth watching. I thought it was very educational. It accurately displayed what I see in the farming industry on a regular basis. It brought out a lot of the positives, the connection with the animals, the lifestyle that it is, the comradery with the group of people, and the friendships that are formed. There's a lot of very good things about the show. The language is a little crass at times, there's some ramming around, and fun that's had, that you have to smile at, at the end of the day.
I feel for our industry and for the general public's understanding of agriculture, this show does a lot of positive things. I'd encourage you to take a look if you have time. It was eight episodes long. My wife very happily watched it with me. It was a really good time. Check it out. A little bit different departure for us, right? We're usually here talking about farm machinery, but I thought this was significant enough that it was worth talking about.
If you're shopping for a piece of equipment and we can help, or if you have parts of service needs for a machine you've already got, give us a call at Messick's. We're available at 800.222.3373, or online at messick's.com.