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Clarkson’s bitter harvest


A FEW weeks ago TCW reported on the TV series Clarkson’s Farm which so clearly depicts the battle of farmers against the dead hand of bureaucracy.

With EU subsidies coming to an end, Clarkson represents the ordinary ‘farmer in the field’ who has to find some other income from his land. His humorous and humane efforts to show what real farming is about (and what relentlessly hard work it is) were rewarded with the ‘Flying the Flag for British Agriculture’ trophy at the 2021 British Farming Awards. 

Yet with all his schemes for diversification Clarkson comes up against opposition from West Oxfordshire district council, who give every impression of being determined to run him out of business, and of being vindictive with it. Perhaps they are resentful of a TV name and dismiss the series as no more than showbusiness froth. Maybe they think he is wealthy enough not to need to make a go of his farm and that he is play-acting for the camera. But despite its name, Diddly Squat is a real farm and development will provide employment for real workers. The councillors seem to miss this point altogether.

The scene where the planning committee rejected his application to open a restaurant in an existing building was an education. I can only think that the councillors did not realise (or did not care) that they came across as entitled, smug and completely out of touch. These are people who are used to being listened to rather than listening. They hire labour, they don’t need to look for scarce work. It was all rather jolly and flippant. The one younger woman who talked about the need for jobs was treated with condescension by the mainly retirement-age majority. (Incidentally, I wonder how many grew up in the Cotswolds? My guess is not many.)

The subsequent scene when the news of the committee’s illogical and harmful decision was relayed to the other struggling farmers who had been hoping to sell their produce to the new enterprise was heartbreaking.

Now a petition has been started in support of Clarkson. It says: ‘Jeremy Clarkson has championed farming and shown that it is a struggle for farmers to make a living by feeding us. He should be supported and encouraged to grow his business creating local jobs and continuing on his path to run a farm which is sustainable both economically and environmentally. Please show your support not only for Diddly Squat but for all farmers held back by local councils who do not understand what being a farmer is all about.’

I don’t honestly know whether the petition will achieve anything, but it might just get through to the planners in their warm offices, and the councillors who would prefer to live in a countryside unsullied by farming, that the industry could do with a bit of support, not kicks in the teeth. You can add your name here. 

What with the craze for ignorant ‘rewilding’, the covering of productive farmland with Chinese-made solar panels in pursuit of the unachievable and undesirable Net Zero, and idiots like Ben Goldsmith campaigning to get rid of sheep, farmers will soon be outnumbered by beavers and the steadily increasing population of this country will start getting hungry.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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