Jimmy Doherty has changed the way the British public think about farmers.
Lots of people do lots of great work flying the flag for agriculture, but Jimmy has taken that message into homes across the country – homes, crucially, where its importance would otherwise have gone overlooked.
He did it through the six-part primetime BBC Two series, Jimmy Doherty’s Farming Heroes, which saw him travel the nation, visiting everyone from the massive and the high-tech to the tiny and the traditional.
He didn’t hog the screen, he stood back and let growers and stock keepers tell their own stories, let them communicate in their own words why what they do is sexy.
The series wasn’t, he insisted, about taking a particular line or advocating what he does (he’s big on rare breeds and sells premium products at premium prices), it was simply about showing – and celebrating – agriculture in all its many forms.
“I want people to see the reality,” he said. “I truly do see farmers as unsung heroes.”
The first episode aired in July and, like the five that followed, attracted more than 2m viewers. Reaction was swift and unanimously positive.
Farmers – some of whom were a little sceptical of him after the earlier fly-on-the-wall documentary about his own fledgling business, Jimmy’s Farm – were soon won over. They loved what they saw. “Inspirational”, “unbiased” and “long overdue” were three epithets used to describe it.
He also achieved something that had rarely been managed before – he connected with people in towns and cities. The review in The Daily Telegraph described the show as “a timely and revealing journey that demonstrates what a crucial industry farming still is in the UK”.
Admittedly, Jimmy’s screen-friendly persona didn’t hurt (think Ag College student meets surf dude) but it was his evangelical enthusiasm that won people over. “Without organised agriculture, we just wouldn’t be here. It’s the basis of civilisation. Once you view it like that, it’s very humbling. Do we need farmers? Yes, we bloody do.”
What Jimmy did was stand up for – and celebrate – not just one section of the farming community – but all farmers.