“If I attempt to use my land to grow food, I’ll lose money” – Clarkson
31st October 2023
Producing food has become an ‘eco no-no’ under current government policy, leaving farmers out of pocket as costs skyrocket and subsidies disappear, says Jeremy Clarkson in his latest book.
Having become an unexpected advocate of British farming, Jeremy Clarkson hits out at the lack of support for food production in his new book, Pigs Might Fly.
‘It would be easy for me to let the brambles and badgers take over my farmland and to sit back and watch the deer and squirrels eat all the trees in my woods,’ he writes. ‘And yes, it would be simple to open this thorny place to hippies and witches […] but I do feel some responsibility to put food on your table.’
Uncharacteristically serious, Clarkson continues: ‘It hurts my knees and my outgoings this year are truly terrifying, even for me with four other income streams. So I can’t hand it back to nature and I daren’t move forwards.
‘Which is why this morning […] I decided to plant my game covers with mustard. It’s my last roll of the dice. My last chance to make something – anything – work. And if it doesn’t? I don’t even want to think about it.’
Clarkson says he suffers sleepless nights at the thought that ‘if I attempt to use my land to grow food I’ll lose money’.
Yet while food has become ‘an eco no-no’, he says ‘inviting people with pink hair to sit in a wood and make daisy chains? The government loves that stuff because it doesn’t mess with its net zero targets’.
What about food?
Clarkson also touches on the lack of clarity farmers have faced over new subsidy schemes and the government policy of ‘public money for public goods’. Having previously received £83,298 a year from the EU, in 2023 he received £48,149, dwindling to nothing by 2028.
‘I’ve been farming for the past four years with absolutely no idea where things were headed. I didn’t know what these ‘public goods’ were. No one did,’ he writes.
And when the detail did arrive ‘in a document that’s more than an inch thick’, he asks: ‘What about food, which after all, is the whole point? Well, I’ve waded through most of the document so far and there’s barely any mention of it.’
As always, Clarkson has a number of income-generating schemes in mind – from venison to making nettle soup – and quips: ‘The 500 acres that we farm here using tractors and seed drills are so on are extremely unlikely to be profitable this year. But the 500 acres we don’t farm at all could well be a gold mine.’
However, a scheme to produce clean, free electricity from the farm’s most vigorous river is a non-starter as ‘the Environment Agency said no. I don’t know why either’.
The third year of Diddly Squat
Pigs Might Fly follows Clarkson’s third year in farming – a year in which fertiliser prices made him ‘wonder if I’d be financially better off if I took up wilding and went to bed for a year’, alongside the effects of the war in Ukraine, plummeting grain prices and ‘constantly bonkers weather’.
After a disastrous attempt to keep sheep in his first year of farming, Clarkson moved onto cows and rented a bull, or ‘man cow’ called Break-Heart Maestro to help with his ‘studiously unpregnant’ heifer Pepper.
Despite being advised by land agent Cheerful Charlie that goats are ‘psychopaths’, he also decided to purchase 30 to keep the brambles at bay and seems to feel more fondly for them than the sheep, though he notes that he’d ‘rather have a saltwater crocodile than sheep’.
Other developments at Diddly Squat Farm include the decision to keep Oxford Shandy and Black pigs – due in part to their ‘comedic ears’ – which prompts Kaleb Cooper to go to Cornwall for a week and Cheerful Charlie to roll his eyes and go home.
There’s also bad news for Clarkson’s oversized and impractical Lamborghini tractor, which Kaleb ordered Clarkson ‘quite firmly’ to book in for a service after discovering that the brakes were no longer functioning. Clarkson also claims former prime minister David Cameron blew up his 1961 Massey Ferguson tractor.
Custodians of the land
Despite the frustrations of red tape, lack of government support, biblical weather and numerous other challenges – which Clarkson expresses real concern about – he has become an unexpected champion of British farming.
He writes: ‘I feel compelled as a farmer to try to keep this tiny bit of land in the best possible shape. I want you to enjoy the food I grow here. I want you to enjoy the views. And I want to take care of everything. And I’ve met a lot of farmers now and all of them think the same way.’
Diddly Squat: Pigs Might Fly is out now, published by Penguin Michael Joseph (£22).