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Jimmy Doherty on the impact of coronavirus, pleasuring turkeys and his Jamie Oliver reunion

Friday Night Feast could be making a comeback!

Jimmy Doherty – TV presenter, farmer and best pal of Jamie Oliver – has revealed he thinks it’ll be a “very, very long time” till the hospitality industry recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Daily, Jimmy opened up about his thoughts on the government’s handling of the situation.

He also revealed that he won’t be opening his restaurant till a lot later in the year. He said it’s just not “viable”.

Jimmy – who is back on Channel 4 with Autumn at Jimmy’s Farm next month – also opened up about the criticisms levelled at Boris Johnson.

Jimmy Doherty
Jimmy Doherty will be back on our screens next month (Credit: Sam Riley)

“The difficult thing is, going back to the restrictions again, it’s really hard because you think, oh it’s just one step forward, two steps back.

“There are so many criticisms of the government, how they’ve handled it, the Track And Trace. But what you can’t forget is the whole furloughing, it’s been remarkable.

“Without that there would have been a massive crisis.”

Does he think the hospitality industry will ever recover?

“I think it’ll take a very very long time, it’s very hard. And, actually, it’s made the government sit up and realise the importance of the hospitality industry and the role it plays in society because so many jobs have been lost.”

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Looking forward to autumn on the farm, Jimmy told us he’s been getting up close and personal with some of his festive farm animals.

He runs Jimmy’s Farm – a working farm – in Sussex.

Giving ED! a sneak peak of what to expect on the upcoming Channel 4 show show, Jimmy revealed: “On the working farm it’s turkey time. So our 9,000 turkeys arrive every year and we settle them in.

“Now they’re settled we open all the doors and let them out into their big open paddock, which is always fantastic because they all come running out.”

Jimmy Doherty
Prince Charles visited the tapirs on Jimmy’s Farm – and one of them is expecting (Credit: Arthur Edwards)

Turkey insemination

He also revealed his conservation plans for next year, and it involves the hatching of some rare breed turkeys.

And, it seems, Jimmy is about to become the next Rebecca Loos.

“Next year we want to hatch a lot of eggs to increase their population, so I got my friend who’s a turkey farmer over and I asked the best way to get the best hatching results.

“He said you can do it naturally and let the boy turkeys mate with the girl turkeys, or you can artificially inseminate.

“So I was like okay, perfect, so he taught me how to milk a stag. And a stag is a boy turkey,” Jimmy said, deadpan.

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“It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve done in the world but it wasn’t the best.”

As well as the working farm, Jimmy runs an animal park, which is home to all manner or weird and wonderful creatures.

Many of them come from people who’ve bought exotic animals as pets and can no longer look after them.

Does Jimmy fancy himself as the next Tiger King?

“Jimmy Domestic,” he laughed, before revealing his thoughts on species conservation.

“I think it’s absolutely vital to maintain our biodiversity, not only in the natural environment but to also preserve them in wildlife parks and zoos,” he said.

“That’s how we’re going to preserve them in the future. Hopefully we’re expecting a baby tapir soon and we’ve got an anteater turning up and we’ll hopefully start breeding them.”

Hitting back at popular opinion that “people just associate zoos with lots of bars”, Jimmy said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was like okay, perfect, so he taught me how to milk a stag. And a stag is a boy turkey.

“The conservation work that goes on in zoos and wildlife parks is tremendous. With habitats decreasing and disappearing, lots of these animals don’t have room or the ranges they used to have.

“So by maintaining captive populations, one day we can put them back into the wild and that’s happened a number of times,” he said.

The vegan argument

He also opened up about the rise of veganism and said it’s an idea he isn’t entirely on board with.

“The vegan argument is quite interesting at certain points. It’s not an argument I totally adopt, purely because there’s a billion of the poorest people in the world who rely on livestock.

“They have two goats and a cow and they can’t afford to be vegan.”

He added: “And also, if you have a farm and grow anything, you can’t really do it without livestock unless you want to rely on chemical-based fertilisers.

“Equally if you look at the diary industry, we all talk about methane, a greenhouse gas, but the dairy industry produces the same amount of methane as the rice industry.

“And the rice industry uses the same amount of water as the beef industry.”

He added: “Just don’t eat meat every day.”

Jimmy does think, however, there has been a shift in how people view sustainability and the environment as a result of the pandemic.

“There are two things I think that are going to be the only positives that come out of this awful situation. One is a sense of community and the other is the reconnection with nature.

“People are seeing nature again which they’ve overlooked because we all live this busy life. People have had time. They can’t go out so they’re spending more time in their garden. Or the desperation to get back into the natural world, to go to the parks, on a glamping holiday, those kind of things.

“We’ve seen it here at the farm, the visitor numbers have been amazing with people saying: ‘Are you open?’ ‘Yes we are.’ ‘Brilliant.’ Although people have to pre-book and there’s a one-way system and all the rest of it, people are so desperate to get their kids out and back to nature.”

Bare supermarket shelves

Jimmy also revealed he thinks Brits have a greater appreciation of the country’s food system now, post-lockdown.

And he’s noticed a shift in attitude when it comes to the nation’s appreciation of the food systems, “particularly when all the shelves were bare”.

“It showed the fragility of our logistics,” he said. “We can’t just have food on tap all the time, it takes a year to produce so much of our food, a whole season to produce it, and we just pick it off a shelf and think nothing of it.

“People got more of an appreciation of that but I hope it stays, that’s the thing.”

Jimmy and Jamie are talking about a reunion in the new year (Credit: Channel 4)

Friday Night Feast to return?

Well, it’s looking likely!

He’s hoping to be back on screen with his bestie, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, in Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast soon.

He told ED!: “I was talking to Jamie the other day because we are hoping to do something Friday Night Feast related early in the new year because we couldn’t do anything this year because of ruddy COVID.

“It’s taking a break for a year then we’re looking at doing something a bit special as a nice big shindig maybe early next year,” he teased.

So are the boys’ kids as close as their dads?

“Not really because we live quite far apart. But they came up before the group of six thing and they all had a run round the wildlife park which was lovely.

“They all get on, his kids are much older, one has already gone to university. So there’s a bit of an age gap but there’s a bit of an age crossover as well which is quite nice.

“But we have great fun,” he said.

Putting his kids to work

On the subject of his kids – Jimmy has four girls – has he any plans to put them to work on the farm?

“I put them to work wherever I can. I get them to do jobs,” he laughed.

“One of my daughters wants to get a horse and I’m like: ‘Oh no.’ I’ve got Shetland ponies here. We get some sucker punches.

“But I say if you want pocket money you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that, can you hoover the kitchen, can you do the sitting room, can you do the windows.

“They love to come and be a part of the farm, they love all that. But it’s mainly to do with petting animals, guinea pigs and lambs, that’s what they like.”

Biting back

They do say never work with children or animals, so has Jimmy ever been bitten by the latter?

“Yes, I get bitten a lot,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s your own fault. I’ve just been with the racoons and one of them has got a bit of a temper. But we didn’t get bitten so that’s alright.

“I got bitten by an emu yesterday, more of a peck. But I find that cats bite me more than anything else,” he said.

Perhaps he is more Jimmy Domestic than Joe Exotic after all…

Autumn at Jimmy’s Farm starts Wednesday October 14, 8pm on Channel 4.

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