Jimmy Doherty is a farmer and TV presenter, famous for the show Jimmy’s Farm. He is mates with TV chef Jamie Oliver and the two film Jimmy and Jamie’s Friday Night Feasts together. Here he chats alligators, Southend road trips and Essex humour…
What is your favourite thing about Essex?
I’ve got such great memories of school trips to Colchester Zoo. I had a lovely upbringing in Essex and one of my favourite things, not far from Bishop Stortford on the Essex boarder there, was strawberry picking. I remember picking strawberries as a kid with my family, at a pick your own kind of thing where you have to go and weigh your basket and I would have eaten so many strawberries myself that I’d have about six in a punnet to be weighed, but I’d eaten about a kilo.
Essex provided for me, a great childhood – a mixture of town and countryside at the same time. And there’s a certain sense of humour that you get in Essex that you don’t find in many other counties.
Jamie and Jimmy’s café is on Southend pier… how did that come about?
My nan used to take me there all the time. And when we learnt to drive, all our friends had a little road trip to Southend and had fish and chips. It always had that element of escapism and fun. We could have taken the show anywhere, but Southend plays on our heartstrings, both me and Jamie, because growing up, Southend was, for me, always the place you went to for fun and Jamie’s family originate from Southend anyway, so it was a natural sort of thing to do.
When are you at your happiest?
My most content I think is early in the mornings when I’m at home and I get time to have a cup of tea sitting outside, when it’s peaceful and quiet. That ten minutes to collect your thoughts to think about things and just take in the bird song and all that peace and quiet.
What do you find most rewarding, your TV work or your farm?
I’m quite lucky. If I haven’t been filming for a little while then I get sort of ‘oh I need to go travelling’ and all the rest of it but then when I’m travelling I’m like, I need to get back to the farm. So there’s a happy balance, and it keeps you really interested. Because you’re away for a bit then you’re back and you’re really engaged. You know, familiarity breeds contempt, but if you’re swapping one to the other all the time, there’s always something to keep you interested and keep you motivated.
Do you and Jamie Oliver still manage to make time for a beer and a catch up?
Yeah. Christmas time we did, on Boxing day. All our families got together and loads of friends did, that was quite fun. But to be honest our filming schedules when we are in Southend mean we’re actually spending more time together than we are with our wives!
Who do most admire and why?
It’s interesting because my parents have been quite important in that they’ve always run their own businesses. My mum was a hairdresser and my dad was a builder, so they’ve always had that work ethic, that get up and go and I think that’s quite important. But I think anyone with an attitude of just getting on with it, pushing on, dust yourself off, have a laugh… and that’s where growing up in Essex has been quite important. Having a sense of humour and ability to take the micky out of yourself has been really important. Starting up the farm there were so many calamities to be able to laugh at it and yourself has been quite important.
What are you most proud of?
Last year we had a visit from Prince Charles because I’m president of the rare breed survival trust now and Prince Charles is the patron of that charity said he’d like to pop in and have a visit so he flew in by helicopter. I felt really proud that day because it was the recognition, not necessarily for me, but for all our staff.
Do you have any regrets?
There’s loads of stuff that you look at and go why on earth did I build that there and do that? Hindsight is always a great thing to point out your mistakes and stuff. But I think that what’s been really important for me is having mistakes and doing things wrong, because you realise lessons that you’ll never forget. You go, “oh I get it now!” It wasn’t a great thing building the first farm shop where it was because all the water used to pour into to it because we built it almost in a dip.
What do you kids think about it all?
I think the TV thing is all a bit weird for them, because they’ve grown up with it and don’t know any different I think they thing everybody’s dad is on the telly, they’re not phased about it whatsoever it. I’ll say stuff like, “oh look, you want to see this program” and they’re like, “oh right” they look and then it’s back on Paw Patrol. They don’t really watch my stuff that much. They normally ask when someone stops me for a selfie or whatever they say, “why do they want a picture with you?” and I say “I dunno” It’s quite amusing.
The new series of Food Unwrapped with Jimmy Doherty, Kate Quilton, Matt Tebbutt and Dr Helen Lawal returns to Channel 4 this Spring. And for more information on Jimmy Doherty, Jimmy’s Farm and his online shop, go to www.jimmysfarm.com