Farmer and TV presenter Jimmy Doherty, who built his business from the ground up, describes what it takes to succeed
My dad and mum are both extremely hard working and were great examples growing up. My mother opened her very first hairdressing shop when she was 19 and she ended up with two or three shops. My dad was a bricklayer by trade and was self employed. I grew up either helping dad on a building site or sweeping up hair in mum’s hairdressing shop. I never really had pocket money so I used to clean cars in the village and I used to wash up in the pub. I knew that if I broke something it would cost me a day’s work – it teaches you the value of something rather than just its price.
When I first started out with my farm a lot of people thought I was crazy. But there was one farmer, an old gentleman called Moe. He used to turn up in his three-wheeled van, with a string belt, and say: “You know boy, what you’ve got to do is put your pig wire nice and tight ‘cos otherwise that sow will be through that wire no problem,” and he’d even give marital advice, like: “Always make sure you buy your missus a nice frock every now and then.” I loved that - he’d be like my Yoda of farming!
A successful farmer who visited gave me a lot of encouragement. A friend of mine is Paul Kelly, a very successful turkey farmer, and one day his dad visited the farm. He said ‘this is exactly how I started’ and he told me it really reminded him of himself. That was a great encouragement because when I look at Kelly Turkeys now it’s been up for awards as one of the best businesses in the country. That gave me a lot of hope.
I will always give advice freely. When we opened our restaurant and farm shop, you’d see, say, a father and son farming team come in and they’d be looking around trying to keep under the radar and trying to work out what we were doing. I’d go straight up to them and ask ‘Would you guys like to know anything?’ If I’ve got information I’ll share it with you because there’s nothing to hide. I don’t fear the competition – the more there are, the more we can all benefit.
To succeed in this industry you need grit, determination and a good sense of humour. Without the ability to laugh at yourself, and at a bad situation, you’d never get through it. Moe told me a bit of advice which was – ‘Never get down, there’s always tomorrow’ – and I think that is a sound bit of advice. In the end it doesn’t matter how hard it gets – spending time out here, doing what we do, is good for the soul.