Clarkson's Farm

Clarkson’s Farm Is an Entertaining Romp That Is Also Exquisite Journalism

Dept. of Lambs and Lamborghinis


Jeremy Clarkson is probably the most unlikely farmer you’re ever going to encounter. On Clarkson’s Farm, his brand new documentary series on Amazon Prime Video, the ex-Top Gear presenter trades in his racing gloves for some gumboots, ditches the Lamborghini Gallardo for a Lamborghini tractor, and sets out to farm his 1000 acre property in The Cotswolds.

He made this decision over a year ago and has had a camera crew follow him on his journey to build a successful farming business. Little did he know that his time as a farmer would be plagued, not just by some of the worst weather conditions in history, but also by a global pandemic. 

Hilarity ensues. But also self-doubt, pathos, and deep reflection. Clarkson’s Farm is incredibly entertaining, but it also has a much deeper message about the plight of the farmer and the ingenuity required to survive in this rapidly changing world.


Bahir Yeusuff: I don’t mean to brag but I spent two Ramadans ago playing too much Farm Simulator on the PS4 so I got what he was going through.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: Enough said my friend. You totally understand the plight of the farmer. The long, unforgiving hours. The struggle to survive droughts, and floods, and plagues of parasites. 

BY: Well, I was lucky. I didn’t have the weather option turned on. And I used fertilizer, so no pests. But also probably not organic.

All jokes aside, there is something absolutely watchable about Clarkson putting about on his farm. His annoyance at the government oversight over what he can, or mostly can’t, do. The series feels somewhat familiar if you’ve ever seen Top Gear. Clarkson sets everything up with an introduction to camera, then he goes on his merry adventure, while providing overlaying narration on top. It is very much Top Gear, but on a farm. And it works.

UA: That said, while both Top Gear and The Grand Tour can come off as feeling somewhat scripted, I found Clarkson’s Farm to be a lot more natural. (No pun intended!) I think a lot of that had to do with Clarkson being the fish-out-of-water in this scenario. Unlike in his car shows, where he is the absolute master of that domain, here there was a real sense of watching him attempt something new.

You know that moment in the first episode, when a frustrated Kaleb (his 21-year-old farmhand sidekick) tells him off for being an idiot, and Clarkson shamefully admits that he has no idea what he’s doing? That was when I knew I was in for something different.

BY: And yet, it is still so Clarkson. Like when he decides to run off and do something. Only to get called up on it by his accountant, Cheerful Charlie. Clarkson goes at everything full tilt, like with the aforementioned Lamborghini tractor, without thinking about whether or not it would fit the other farm equipment he’d need (been there, done that).

His honesty is really what comes through here. When he says he has a new found respect for farmers, you can tell he means it. Not because he’d just driven around the wheat farms of the United States in his multimillion pound car, but because he’s just spent the afternoon climbing up and down his (too big) tractor, before having to plow acres and acres of fields. He feels it now. He knows it.

It’s the Same but Different

Clarkson's Farm
This does not have the horsepower that I am looking for!

UA: With Top Gear and The Grand Tour, I was so used to seeing Clarkson do the same thing over and over again, that I had forgotten what a great journalist he was. Those two shows trip into the ludicrous so often that you sometimes lose sight of the message behind the madness. For me, Clarkson’s Farm was something closer to pure journalism. 

On the face of it, this looks and sounds like a show about a cocky white guy from the big city who thinks he can do anything. But that would be far too simplistic a read on what this is. Right from the start, Clarkson sets out on this quest with a motive to discover. He’s always asking questions. He’s always willing to learn. Yes, he’s constantly fighting (and failing) against his instincts to “try and do things his way,” but he’s also changing and growing right before us. That’s what great journalism is all about. Challenging your own preconceptions by finding those new arguments and points of view.


BY: There’s also a childlike innocence and naïveté about him. He is very excited about everything he is doing on the farm. He has all these grand ideas and it’s only because of his sheer stubbornness that any of it will happen. Charlie is always telling him that the money is an issue, or that things are expensive, or that he’s losing money, but he doesn’t seem to let that stop him. Kaleb is constantly calling him stupid, or telling him how he’s doing something wrong, and Clarkson just doesn’t care. There is an excited single mindedness about him that really is quite inspiring. (If you’re not already nursing a headache for the number of times you’ve slapped your forehead because Clarkson has gone and done something dumb.)

That excitedness is something I haven’t seen in Clarkson in a long time. Sure he gets all giggly when he puts his foot down on the throttle of a Ferrari F90 Stradale, but watching him get excited because his sheep have birthed healthy baby lambs is something else. It’s a new thing. It’s not a “better” old thing, but something completely new that’s making him beam with joy and pride. It is a beautiful thing to see.

UA: You know what else? This thing is genuinely funny. Like laugh out loud funny. Sometimes it’s because of Clarkson’s stupidity. But mostly it’s in these very real interactions that he has with the weird and wonderful people he meets on this journey to becoming a farmer.

BY: Every farm needs a Gerald. And I loved him even more when Clarkson mentioned that he was a Manchester United man.

Has Clarkson Gone Green?

Clarkson's Farm
It’s a Lamborghini!

BY: There is also another interesting read on Clarkson in this series. I don’t believe it’s a character he plays, but I think he is genuinely concerned about, maybe not the environment, but definitely the health of the planet. And it doesn’t look like he wants to, or feels he personally needs to, teach everyone what he’s learned.

At one point, his builder, half jokingly, but also quite seriously, pointedly tells Clarkson that all this rain he’s been whinging about was due to global warming and people like him who have been driving around in gas guzzlers. Clarkson, maybe for the first time in the entire series, plays his Top Gear self and calls it bullshit, laughing it off as he gets into his car.

The anti global warming Clarkson has been a persona on his car shows for years. But seeing how concerned he is for the insects on his fields, how motivated he was to set up wildling areas and owl sanctuaries on his farm, and how proud he looked when a birding specialist told him he had done a good job and that goldfinches were coming around, it really felt like this was the true Clarkson. Clarkson the naturalist. I’m not saying he couldn’t simply have changed his views. He absolutely could have. But I wonder if the anti global warming Clarkson was a character he was playing on TV.

Anyway, I like this Clarkson better.

UA: This was the thought that I had while watching this. Has Clarkson gone green? 

BY: I think he’s become more comfortable with the idea of “green.” Especially since he now can see the results. 


UA: There is that one throwaway line in the first episode when he asks Kaleb if this is what Greta Thunberg was on about. And Kaleb says he doesn’t know who that is, but “yes.” That felt like a quiet change on Clarkson’s part. Especially given how vocal and insulting he’s been about her in the past.

For me, it felt like Clarkson has always been against extreme solutions. Which is probably why he’s lashed out at activists like Thunberg. I don’t believe that he’s a global warming denier. I think he just hates the idea of dismantling the entire auto industry. 

BY: Then again, electric cars now come in his favourite colour. Fast.

It’s also a very English thing to do isn’t it. “Not over explaining your position.” For me it was that bit where Clarkson mentions that he was getting flack for posting a picture of the logging machine he had gotten on his farm. And how the peoples on the Interwebs were jumping on him for perpetuating his public image of a guy who hates nature.

On camera, however, he seemed very frustrated that the public were not actually seeing the good he was doing. That the cutting down of the trees, or thinning of the woods, was actually better for nature. That it allowed sunlight to hit the ground and therefore encourage other things to grow. He wasn’t doing it because he wanted to put in a new car shed. He was doing it (at great personal expense) because it was good for nature. I sometimes wish he would clarify his position, but at least we have it on tape now.

UA: I was just going to say that. Maybe the work speaks for itself.

BY: Or at least that’s the way he’d like it to be.

When Are We Getting That Kaleb Spin-Off?

Clarkson's Farm
The man with a thousand hairstyles, Kaleb Cooper!

UA: The reason this series works so well is because Clarkson is a great surrogate for the rest of us. Yes, we all say we know how hard life is for farmers. We pretend to understand where our food comes from after reading some thinkpiece in The Atlantic. But to have your prototypical city slicker face up to every challenge and crisis that comes with farming does actually put us in their shoes.

I’m not afraid to admit that I learned so much watching Clarkson’s Farm. And it really gave me a newfound appreciation for just how hard it is to get the food we eat on our table. I don’t know if that was Clarkson’s goal with this, but if it was, then mission accomplished.

BY: I don’t actually think that was his point. I can’t see Clarkson pitching Amazon (or the other way around) on a show about farm-to-table, or food sustenance, or farm welfare. I find it more believable that it was a much simpler pitch that got this show made. Jeremy Clarkson has a farm. Jeremy Clarkson wants to work on his farm. Let’s watch.


UA: Whatever that pitch was, Clarkson’s Farm works for me. I wasn’t sure what this was going to be when I clicked play. I was honestly quite apprehensive. More so given the somewhat mediocre efforts from his other two co-hosts. I was worried that this would be some “passion project” that Amazon funded as a way to get Clarkson to sign on for more seasons of The Grand Tour. I didn’t expect something this epic in scale and quite as moving in execution. 

BY: I’m with you on that. I think I’m done with The Grand Tour. Just give me 10 seasons of Clarkson’s Farm. He can work until he’s 70 right?

UA: Clarkson is an incredibly divisive individual. There is no middle ground here. You either love him or you hate him. (I fall into the “love him” category.) But that said, I think this show has definitely brought out a softer side to his personality which might appeal to even those who vehemently dislike or disagree with the man. There’s growth here. There’s fallibility. It’s proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Also, Kaleb is a legend! His ingenuity in the face of Clarkson’s stubbornness is truly something to behold.

Clarkson’s Farm is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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