Meet Clarkson's Farm's Kaleb Cooper Ahead of His Shows in Newcastle and York
Celebrity farmer Kaleb Cooper is heading out on his first ever theatre tour in January
What gave you the idea of doing a theatre tour with your show, The World According to Kaleb?
When I was researching my new book, Britain According To Kaleb, I thought I'm actually missing out on the most amazing places by not travelling. I could go on tour and do a show in these towns and put farming centre stage.
What are you most looking forward to about the tour?
I'm really excited about meeting everybody, about being on the road and seeing these most amazing places. When I’m on tour, I can see all these different farms. I can't wait to look over the hedges and go, ‘why would you stack the hay bales that way? I would have done it this way’. Hopefully everyone will come along and have an amazing time. I want to have a bit of banter with everybody because I love a little bit of banter.
Are you hoping to exchange ideas with lots of farmers?
Yes. I've always said the best way for anyone to learn about farming is to go and speak to another farmer. Everyone has their own ways of doing stuff. One farmer will plough this way, and another that way. If you combine the two, you might do it better than them. So, on the tour, I can't wait to talk to all different kinds of farmers. But most importantly, on stage I’m keen to show people who are not from a farming background and who are not in the industry what farming is all about. Because let's face it, when has a farmer ever done a theatre tour?
What will the format of the show be?
I can't give away anything I'm going to do, but just know that it will be a really fun, enjoyable show that puts farming centre stage. What I can say is that I have been tractor shopping and I've bought a tractor to bring along with me. That's coming in a few weeks’ time, so I’ll get to play with it before I go on tour. I’m really excited about that.
Do you think Clarkson’s Farm has demonstrated how tough farming can be?
I think farmers as a whole watch the show and think, ‘finally, here is a programme that shows the public what it's all about’. It is not all about trying to do everything on the cheap and cut corners. We do everything by the book. You have a lot of red tape, you've got meetings, you’ve got paperwork, you've got actual physical labour, you've got breakdowns, you've got animal husbandry, you've got the weather – the weather is the biggest thing. And I think farmers were a bit relieved when the programme came out and showed the reality of it.
It also teaches people where their food comes from, doesn’t it?
Yes. The other day I asked a young kid in the supermarket, ‘do you know where that milk comes from?’ He went, ’on the shelf’. Let’s face it, you can't know where your milk comes from until you have been into that milking parlour with a cup of tea and milked a cow straight into your tea. That is the best thing in the world. There's no, ’it’s too strong. It's too weak. I put too much milk in’. You know exactly how much milk you're going to take out of that cow. It’s perfect.
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How would you describe the relationship between you and Jeremy?
We just clicked straight away. The first time we ever met he told me to slow down as he thought I might hurt his cat. I was driving a tractor past his house, and he was worried about his cat going underneath the wheels. He said, ‘can you slow down a little bit?’ I replied, ‘yeah, yeah’, and then I just stayed at the same speed because I was busy!
But a friendship then developed from those unlikely beginnings?
Yes. We are good friends. We go and have a drink together or we have dinner together. He took me to The Who concert the other day, which was really good fun. We just get on. In every friendship, you can have an argument and have a little sulk. But it's about how you react at the end. Do you stay angry each other, or do you go, ‘do you want a cup of tea?' That’s what we do. We go, 'do you want a cider? Let’s go and have a drink together and chill out for a little bit’. There are no hard feelings. The chemistry between us is obviously good and it comes across on camera too. As soon as we're put in the same room, it just clicks. It's weird. It’s not like we are the same age. I'm 25 years old. But I've got an older mentality. I grew up too quickly is what I'm probably trying to say. And I think therefore, in my head I'm a 60-year-old man like him!
Does it frustrate you that Jeremy often doesn't listen to what you say?
Yes. Even though he's just talking rubbish, he goes, ‘I can do that more quickly than you’. For example, when we were drilling for the first time, I told him, ‘you go up and down to get your tramlines’. But he thought he could go round and round and do it more quickly. Afterwards I said to him, ‘there’s a reason I told you not to do that. So, listen to me’. But unfortunately, he didn't listen to me. That really frustrates me. We argue over it and then we have two or three days of not talking.
What was The World According to Kaleb about?
I wrote that book as I realised I look at the world very differently. My thoughts on things that people don’t question, or the funny goings on in cities, seem to give a lot of people a laugh or a different outlook on the the world. For example, when I went to London for the first time in series one of Clarkson’s Farm, I remember looking up, and there was this tree on top of a building. And I just thought, ‘how is anyone going to prune that?’ When I prune a tree in my area, I have to go up 15 feet and it takes me half a day to cut it. Whereas if you're in London pruning the tree, you've got to go up 1,000 feet in an elevator, and then climb a 15-foot tree. It was honestly bizarre.
You have been eager to use the platform Clarkson’s Farm has given you for good, haven’t you?
Yes. I didn’t think Clarkson’s Farm was going to be as big as it is. But now I've discovered that I can be the voice for young people in the industry and really help them. I’ve started a bursary, and I'm trying to help young people go to agricultural college. I'm not from a farming background. My Mum's a dog groomer, my Dad's a carpenter. So, the question is how you get people into the industry who don’t have a farming background. It’s hard. So, if I can help a young person get into farming, it will make my day more than anything. That’s why I set up the bursary. The big news is that instead of one person, we’ve managed to get two people through this year, and give them £3,000 over three years. Fingers crossed, before the end of the year, we might get a third.
You are clearly passionate about farming. What is it that you really love about it?
There’s so much to it that I enjoy. I enjoy the science, the labour and the tractors. I actually enjoy the finance side of it, weirdly. As a farmer, you have got to think all the time; you've got to be on the ball. I enjoy the animal husbandry, rearing your own animals, having your own meat on the table. I enjoy the lifestyle, and I think that's the most important side of it for me. Because farming is not a job. It's a way of life. When you sit down for Sunday lunch and you start eating a roast, you go, ‘I grew those runner beans, I grew those potatoes, that beef came off the farm, that pork came out of my woodland’. You sit there with your family and your little boy on the right-hand side of you is eating a sausage like it's the best thing in the world. At that moment, you can go, ‘I know exactly where that meat came from. I know that is 100 percent real, nothing artificial is in there’. It's an amazing feeling. And seeing my little kids have a life around farms is fantastic. My little boy is two and a half-years-old, and he works harder than anyone I know. He will carry buckets; he will feed calves. He is not scared of anything. He will try and jump on pigs’ backs, like a little rodeo.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your live show?
I hope they just have a really big smile on their faces and they're all laughing. I just want a fun atmosphere. I think I'm a fun person to be around. In the theatre for that one night, I want the same atmosphere that there is at an agricultural show. Everyone can switch off from their day-to-day life, and enjoy something funny, but the same time learn about where their food comes from. And, how to milk a cow. Why don't I bring a cow on stage? Who knows? You have been warned!