CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Down on the farm with Jimmy

PUBLISHED: 12:03 17 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:53 20 February 2013

...bull. Jimmy Doherty on his farm at Pannington Hall, Wherstead, near Ipswich

Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

...bull. Jimmy Doherty on his farm at Pannington Hall, Wherstead, near Ipswich Photograph by SARAH LUCY BROWN

And on his farm he had a... herd of pigs, flock of sheep, restaurant, farm shop, music festival and even a film crew. Richard Bryson meets Jimmy Doherty, scientist, entrepreneur and the nation's favourite celebrity farmer

And on his farm he had a... herd of pigs, flock of sheep, restaurant, farm shop, music festival and even a film crew. Richard Bryson meets Jimmy Doherty, scientist, entrepreneur and the nations favourite celebrity farmer




A snatched conversation at, of all places, 10 Downing Street encapsulates the down-to-earth charm of Jimmy Doherty. Invited by the Labour government to a think-tank on how to make science more accessible to the public, Jimmy was chatting to that chef and food technician Heston Blumenthal when Prime Minister Gordon Brown approached.
He just wondered what we were talking about and at that precise moment we were discussing why asparagus makes your pee smell so strong, explained Jimmy. It was science linked, I guess, but we were like a couple of schoolboys. I think Gordon gave a half-smile and moved on.
While that might be a little flippant, Jimmy is serious and passionate when it comes to food production.
The people in this industry should be recognised as doing one of the top five most important jobs in Britain. They are the cornerstone of our nation, without them where would we be?
He has met a cross section of Britains farmers and producers during his recent television food science show, Jimmys Food Factory, in which he discovers what goes into supermarket food. Im not into food snobbishness, the programmes dont look into the rights and wrongs of making food. They reveal the various processes involved in getting it from the farm to the table, he says.
For instance, every day in the UK 36 million litres of milk are produced, but before it arrives on the supermarket shelf it is pasteurised and homogenised but what does that involve?
To show the modern dairy processes, Jimmy assembled his own production line at his Wherstead farm using a high pressure washer, a tin bath, a fire extinguisher, a car jack, fence posts, a stepladder and a collection of buckets.
He is a practical guy but how much of the setting up of these experiments does he do? The cameras show him sawing wood and hastily assembling all manner of equipment. A little bit, but the time scales on these shows obviously mean there is help off camera, he says.
The secret behind Jimmys successful screen persona seems simple enough he just acts naturally. The tousled hair, ever so slightly scruffy jeans and casual shirts go with his amused, alert eyes, easy way with people and great enthusiasm for food and how it is made.
His television debut came when producer Niall Downing involved him in a pilot programme about killer diseases and parasites.
It must have been okay because the BBC called me later to see if I was interested in other work, says Jimmy.
When the crew comes to make series like the Food Factory, they become part of the family and you get used to the cameras three months filming equates to about an hour of television.
He says he doesnt like watching himself on the small screen but when he does he becomes critical, asking himself if he could be better.
Doing voiceovers means you have to go back over your work and, like some people, I dont like having to hear the sound of my own voice! he admits.
Its the same Jimmy I meet; friendly, engaged and thoughtful. He answers questions at length but doesnt over-elaborate or reel off countless anecdotes. He likes to chat but at the same time there is always work to be done, projects to become immersed in.
For anyone thinking Jimmy has piggy-backed on the success of his friend Jamie Oliver, it should be known they have been mates since the age of three. They went to the same school (in Clavering, Essex) tended to be little, noisy buggers on the back of the bus, flicked towels at each other when working in Jamies parents pub and generally got on.




My first date with Michaela was at the London Aquarium. It was quite dark so if I said anything stupid it hid my embarrassment.





His love of the natural world and science pointed to zoology as a career but a few years in the Territorial Army almost sidetracked him into military service. Army training can be good for people, teaching about responsibilities, basic rights, etc, but Im now sounding like my dad, he says.
But all creatures great and small fascinated Jimmy partly because a friends dad had a smallholding and I loved going there then I got to work on a wildlife park in Essex.
He went from Newport Free Grammar School to Coventry Universitys zoology department and has a PhD in entomology, the scientific study of insects.
Looking back, he says the world-changing events of September 11, 2001 acted as something of a wake-up call and kick started his career. You either dont do something or you really commit and get on and do it and risk failure, he says.
He trained to be a pig farmer and it was while working on a farm in Cumbria that Jimmy met his wife Michaela. She was a runner on Jamies TV series Jamies Kitchen and Jimmy asked her out. I have an interest in, and keep, tropical fish so our first date was at the London Aquarium. It was quite dark so if I said anything stupid it hid my embarrassment.
They married in August 2009 and the newly-weds travelled from the church to the reception at Jimmys Farm in a pink tractor given by Jimmy to Michaela. Now the couple have a six month old daughter, Molly Rose.
They are clearly delighted to be parents (while I talk to Jimmy, Michaela is chatting to friends in a corner of their farm restaurant and watching over Molly) but life on the farm must go on.
In between all the television work, Jimmys Farm represents their main business interest. Initially, in those early days, they lived in a caravan and reared pigs to make some income. Utilising free-range production practices, the farms meat is based around rare breeds like the Essex, as well as the Berkshire, Gloucester Old Spot, large and middle Whites. There are also Jacob sheep and Red Poll cattle.
Alongside the working farm is a 200-year-old barn restaurant, farm shop and field kitchen, while close by there is a nature trail, woodland walk, gardens and a play area.
Jimmy also attends food shows and gets involved in Harvest at Jimmys, a mini music and food festival held at the farm in late summer. Last year its mix of headlining bands, food and family fun attracted some 20,000 visitors.
He also likes to help nurture budding talent by running apprenticeships for young people, so that they can establish themselves and run their own businesses, and proudly draws my attention to tables and chairs in the restaurant made with recycled wood by one of his employees.
Jimmy appreciated, and felt humbled by his honourary doctorate from Suffolk University last summer.
But hes not precious about it. I spot a torn front page of the East Anglian Daily Times pinned on to a door in his office bearing his photograph complete with cape and mortar board. Someone has added a twirly, yesteryear moustache to the picture. No respect, he smiles.
Has he ever wondered how he has found himself to be a television favourite, travelling the world and getting involved in all sorts of new experiences?
There was the time, while filming Jimmy Doherty In Darwins Garden, he pursued a Charles Darwin theory, by asking someone to play a bassoon to some earthworms!
Then there are the trips to tropical locations.
When I was hanging upside down prodding a honeybee nest in Nepal, with Gurkhas shouting at me, I did think to myself why am I doing this? but then I tell myself that its a great opportunity, meeting Brazilian cattle ranchers, or camel farmers in Africa.
And it seems his adventures on the small screen are going to continue, albeit on a different channel. Just days after our interview, news breaks that Jimmy has joined Channel 4 to develop several new programmes with the commercial broadcaster.
From natural history and conservation to farming and mass production, nothings off limits. Its an exact match for me, he says.
And if this fame game ended tomorrow? I would be left with the most incredible experiences and memories, he says. It would then, of course, be business as usual, running our beautiful farm. That reminds me - it's our ten year anniversary next year so get ready for a party!'

0 comments

More from People

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What makes the perfect Christmas? For most of us it’s good food, good drink and good company, wherever we call home. And in Suffolk we’re lucky to have some great people in the food and drink industry who ensure we always have a great time | Words: Jayne Lindill

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

From her great uncle’s First World War diary Vicky Gunnell pieced together the career of a pioneer in aerial photography at Orford Ness and Martlesham Heath

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spirit Yachts is a Suffolk success story. After 25 years of designing and building luxury vessels sailed all over the world, it has plenty to celebrate | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Private, intimate and unforgettable: here’s why you should consider a bespoke package wedding at a stately home

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

An exclusive charity sale at Bishop & Miller gives Ed Sheeran fans the chance to own some of the singer’s personal items

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October . . . the month for the unusual and the unexplained. Pip Wright delves into Suffolk’s strange, bewildering history of witchcraft | Words: Pip Wright

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tessa Allingham sits down to dinner prepared by some of the county’s most talented chefs and their most promising protegés

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

John White has lived and worked at the tiny hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry for almost all of his 79 years | Words & Photos: Mike Trippitt

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thinking of boarding school for your child but have concerns? There might be a flexible boarding option to suit you at Royal Hospital School, Ipswich

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barrister Sarah Langford hopes her fictionalised accounts of some of the challenging cases she’s defended will give people a deeper understanding of the justice system | Words: Catherine Larner - Photo: Sophia Schorr-Kon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search