In at the Deep End – David Richardson
Believe me, unless you're a media star or top sports person, finding a publisher is not easy. I got lucky when I found Tricorn. Dan Bernard is helpful with advice and guidance and delivers on time as promised. What's more, he's a nice bloke to deal with. Thanks Dan.
David Richardson is a veteran farmer, businessman and
communicator whose skills have been· recognised over the years
by both peers and admirers. During more than 50 years of writing and
broadcasting about farming, food and the countryside he has earned
a reputation for straight talking and common sense. His analyses
of rural issues are uncompromising. His criticisms of officialdom
are penetrating and his recognition and exposure of humbug are
instinctive and incisive.
But David is also a family man, carrying on the skills and standards
established, by his farming father, supported by a wife and family who
themselves have all contributed to his story as agriculturalist, writer
and broadcaster. Personal tragedies and achievements are chronicled
in this book, interspersed with tales of politicians and the media.
From small farm beginnings he won a scholarship to the City of
Norwich School but left before he was 16 to start earning his living
from farming rather than seeking higher education at university. His
activities in Norfolk Young Farmers soon marked him out, both
to Lorna, who would become his wife, and to television, radio and
magazine bosses. Almost by accident, as he explains in these pages,
he developed his career at Anglia Television, then at the BBC, later
adding regular contributions to magazines and newspapers at local
and national level.
Now in his eighties, David has decided to tell his own story, punctuated
with numerous anecdotes, many of them humorous, of his life in
farming, business management and the exciting worlds of print and
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.
I have had the great honour of knowing David nearly half my life.
He has been my friend, my mentor and confidant. Above all, he
has given me the opportunity of pursuing my dream: driving forward
more sustainable agriculture and better public engagement in farming,
through my role with LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).
David’s book spans over 80 years of an ever-changing farming
industry. It is hard to imagine farming without electricity in this country,
our dependency on horses for cultivations and the long years of food
rations, yet David’s journey through an industry so changed is gripping
and f ascinating. D avid h as t aken e very o pportunity l ife h as t hrown
at him and grown a remarkable career in journalism alongside a real
visionary approach for farming. Indeed, there are few in the farming
industry that have not heard of him.
It is clear he has never stopped learning. Always hungry to share
his wisdom, experiences, travels, thoughts, grumbles, and joy. Indeed,
he stresses so often how pleased he was to be given the opportunity to
share his good fortune over his lifetime and put something back into an
industry that has given him so much. But it is clear this is not without
sheer hard work and commitment backed up by the support of his
wonderful wife, Lorna, sadly no longer with us, and his family that has
meant that he has constantly given back so much to the industry all his
life with time, commitment and through television, radio and his pen.
And all of this with a questioning mind, an open heart, and a sparkle
in his eye. How true his quote in this book, ‘in my view humour is the oil
that makes the mechanics of human relations function. Without it life is
dry, boring, less enjoyable and less efficient’.
This book is a truly beautiful account of farming through David’s life,
with descriptions that take you onto his farm, his intrepid travels, the
joys of the Young Farmers Club and the trials and tribulations that life
throws at us over the years. During that time there are things that were
done differently and that we are sad we have lost, there are new things
that have provided opportunities for farmers and indeed the consumers
we feed and of course there are those things that have happened before
that we still do not learn from.
This book is for everyone, the young farmers stepping up to meet
the challenges of playing a part in one of the most important industries
in the world; those of us already involved in farming as a reminder of
the importance of balancing the lessons of history with more recent
developments. It is also for the government and policy makers as a
prompt to learn from our experiences, both here in the UK and across
the globe, of what really matters: producing food in the most sustainable
ways possible in order to secure the health of our precious natural
resources and the wellbeing of mankind.
This book is full of life’s lessons, underpinned by David’s strong moral
judgement and belief in fairness, honesty, and integrity.
There are many heroes in farming and then there are legends. Those
individuals that stand out. David is a true legend, and I am proud I
LEAF Chief Executive