The English farmer, author and TV presenter Adam Henson will be coming to Chorleywood next week with his new book, Like Farmer, Like Son.
The Countryfile host lives on the farm where he was born, in the Cotswolds, with his wife and two children.
His father, Joe Henson MBE, took on the farm in 1962 and also went on to appear on TV shows, as well as founding the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Work which continues on the farm today.
Adam continues to work on the 650 hectare farm producing crops, rearing animals for breeding, meat and wool and wildlife conservation.
I spoke to him to find out more about threats to farming, eating British, juggling TV and farm life and his recently published memoir….
Tell me about growing up on the farm
I used to chase my dad out the door putting on my wellies to go out on the farm, he was very inclusive and loved us going with him. There were piglets and lambs and it was a lovely upbringing.
Tell me about your new book Like Farmer, Like Son
It’s a story about how mine and my father’s lives were entwined. He was form an acting background, his father (Leslie Henson) was a famous actor and comedian during the war and my dad was born out of wedlock. He was kept a secret otherwise it would have been a terrible public scandal so he had quite an unusual upbringing which he allowed me to write in the book. Even though he had a difficult childhood himself and quite an unusual relationship with his father, he was a brilliant dad and a lovely man. My little footsteps hardly fill its great big ones.
During the writing of the book he sadly got ill with cancer and died in October 2015. We were telling our stories together but he sadly never got to see the final product. That was quite a dark corridor to go down during the writing of the book, but it was also a lovely memory about him..
How did you land a place on Countryfile?
They did a presenter search in 2001, you had to send a two minute video of why you thought you were good at it. I had never considered television even though my father had done some TV work. My partner recommended I apply and videoed me. I had a bull dribbling on the shoulder and a goat kid next to me and I just explained all the things going on in the farm and that I had a good insight into rural life.
Now I’ve got a fantastic business partner on the farm. We’ve had to surround ourselves with really good managers because I’m away a lot. I film two days a week as well as other bits and pieces, like writing books. TV is a fickle world, in wont last forever and one day I’ll go back to being a proper farmer.
What is the biggest threat to UK farming?
There are a number, the weather is always something we have to contend with day to day. The weather pattern is shifting. Climate change, from what I’ve seen, is definitely happening; it has changed a lot in my lifetime and its just an ongoing challenge day to day, for example if we have a wet spring or a drought in the summer.
Political change is probably our biggest threat at the moment, with Brexit it will be interesting to see where farming sits in the hierarchy of demand for government cash. At the moment farming is supported by government and tax payers’ money. It supports production but also the environment, I hope that remains. If it doesn’t it could be devastating.
What is the current market like for British produce, are people eating British?
I think a lot of people who are discerning about the environment and the way food is produced will support the local farm shop and markets and buy from box schemes. More and more people are recognising the red tractor with the Union Jack behind which is a sign that it is grown and produced in Britain and so carries our tight legislation which covers animal welfare, employment law, waste management and looking after the environment.
I also do feel there’s a huge amount of cheap food from abroad that is piling onto supermarket shelves with very tempting. Whether or not you’re shopping on a budget it is tempting to buy but you may not know how well it has been produced.
How does consumerism effect production?
We have very tight legislation in the UK. A lot of that has through Europe, now that we’re coming out I hope that doesn’t change.
What we do need to do is get the consumer on our side so that they realise what is going on and buy British. Otherwise we’re doing a lot of hard work to produce very safe, ethical food and no one is buying it.
An Evening with Adam Henson with Chroleywood Bookshop is at The Junction, Christ Church, Chorleywood, WD3 5SG on Wednesday March 22, 7.30pm. Details: chilternbookshops.co.uk