In at the Deep End
How a young farmer came to cultivate the media
For many years whenever I have met anyone for the first time the conversation soon turns to how and why an ordinary Norfolk farmer like me has spent a good proportion of my life doing things in the media. They always seem interested in what I tell them and that is my excuse for being arrogant and boastful enough to write about my life in the assumption that someone might want to read it.
My stock answer when anyone asks how it happened is “I needed the money” and that, as you will read in the pages that follow, is not entirely facetious. Not that I can claim to have been hard done by in my youth but there was no silver spoon and every penny had to be counted when I rented my first farm.
But I was lucky. I happened to be in the right place at a number of crucial times in my life and all I did was accept the challenges as they came my way. At times I was pushed “in at the deep end” but somehow managed to swim. I was also lucky in my family.
My parents encouraged me; my brother, who later became my partner in business, accepted my absences while I was doing other things; and my late wife, Lorna, looked after our children and tolerated my many trips away when I should probably have been at home to share the responsibility. I tried to pay her back for her forbearance by taking her on lots of farm study tours, which she loved, in the years since.
The reason why people are fascinated by those who appear on TV and radio is that they regard it as glamorous. At my level, a long way from show business, that glamour is a bit of an illusion. Yes, I have met politicians and captains of our agricultural industry, travelled to many countries, and learned a lot. But there were never any red carpets or awards ceremonies. Just the satisfaction of being able to inform others who were interested what was going on in the farming world.
And it was a real privilege to visit many farms and talk to those who farmed them. They taught me so much it was at times like the university course I never took. I look back and can identify many decisions taken on the farm at home which were inspired by people I had gone to interview. Many of those individuals became friends as they still are today and that too is a source of enormous pleasure and satisfaction to me.
!n at the Deep End revised and up-dated
Before James Rebanks, or Hannah Jackson, or Kate Humble, or Adam Henson, or Matt Baker, or Amanda Owen, or Helen Skelton or even John Craven……. there was
He’s lived, farmed and broadcast through all of their lives and in his autobiography, now revised and up-dated, he records the changes he’s witnessed during his long life. From Wartime privations and ration books, through surpluses and set-aside, to environmental priorities and LEAF, of which he was the founder chairman.
Chosen as a presenter of TV and radio programmes on farming and the countryside in his early twenties he has grown from cub reporter to authoritative commentator. Never shy to “tell it how it is”, as Lord Henry Plumb says in his foreword, he has earned a reputation as an incisive critic of policy makers, most of whom, he believes, are not up to the job.
Told in the style with which he has written countless columns in Farmers Weekly and other publications, and with a dash of humour here and there it concludes with his concern at the apparent lack of understanding or care about the importance of farming and food production by politicians, And he calls for a re-balancing of public attitudes towards the need for conservation and that for feeding the nation.
So, from working with horses to driving the most sophisticated combine harvesters, from Young Farmers Club fun to Chairing the Oxford Conference and from saving his son from drowning to sharing a ski lift with Jackie Stewart, this book is this summer’s must read.
Published by Tricorn Books. Price £12.99