A well-known name in the farming industry turned tv presenter and household name, Adam Henson is a man that everyone wants to know about, and in his new memoir he tells us about his journey, the ups and downs from his life on Bemborough Farm to stepping in front of the camera.
Even the locals who had been opposed to the Cotswold Farm Park were curious and came down to have a look. The word spread, and soon it was getting visitors from right across Britain, and even farther afield.
In its very first year, 20,000 people thronged to Bemborough Farm. The entrance fee was 10p for adults and 5p for children but at the time, with the investment Dad and John had made, every penny helped.
As a kid you are totally flexible and love new things, so this massive influx of people onto our land didn’t bother me at all. It seemed fantastic to me that all these people wanted to look at our animals.
Dad also talked to my sisters and me so we understood just what the rationale behind the farm
park was. He would tell us about things like Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs, which at one time were a mainstay of Cotswolds farming but now had fallen badly out of favour.
The Old Spots were big docile old pigs with floppy ears but intensive farming was all the rage in the early 1970s and farmers all wanted lean, fast-growing commercial sows. They were starting to see the poor Old Spots as outmoded, almost a laughing stock.
I think at that point, turning up at market with Old Spots was a bit like pulling up to a sports car rally in a battered Morris Minor. The breed was irrelevant and even threatened with extinction - which was where the farm park came in.
Dad also did a very clever thing to keep my sisters and me interested in the farm park – he gave us a vested interest in it. He gifted each of us kids a rare breed from the park and told us that we were responsible for maintaining, looking after and replacing them.
Libby got Cotswold sheep, Lolo had Shetland sheep, Becca had Southdown sheep and I was given the Exmoor ponies. To be honest, at five years old I would have preferred to be given sheep and was slightly jealous of my sisters, but I threw myself into looking after the ponies. Dad told us that we had to maintain the breed, and buy and sell the stock.
Whenever we sold an animal, half of the money would go into our piggy banks. It was a brilliant idea, because it helped us to learn about rare breed conservation while also teaching us that the farm park was actually a business.
Like Farmer, Like Son by Adam Henson, published by BBC Books, www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk, RRP £18.99.
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