When Adam Henson was writing his memoir, Like Farmer, Like Son, he needed no tangible reminder of his beloved dad, fellow farmer and broadcaster Joe Henson, who died last October.
Joe’s presence was everywhere.
“It still is,” says Adam (50). “I live and work on the same farm we lived in when I was a child – me, my three older sisters and Mum and Dad. Everything on the farm reminds me of him. He was a huge influence and I felt his presence while writing the book. I was reminded of the amazing things he achieved and the great times we all had together. Dad knew I was writing the book. We’d talked about what would be in it and I ran a few things past him but then he got ill and never saw the finished article – but I think he would have approved.”
Adam’s admiration, love and respect for his father jumps out from every page.
“People say, ‘like father, like son’ and the story of my life has mirrored his to an uncanny degree. Today I run Bemborough Farm that Dad nurtured for nearly 40 years before passing it on to me in 1999. Its centerpiece remains the Cotswold Farm Park, his pride and joy and his life’s defining passion. I have also been lucky enough to also follow him onto television. He blazed a trail on TV shows like Animal Magic and In The Country and made presenting look so easy – which it isn’t!
“Right from when I was a little boy, he was my rock, my mentor and my hero. It’s no exaggeration to say that he taught me virtually everything I know about both country life and television. Without him, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today. I learned so much from him.
“He always gave people – whoever they were – his time, even though he was so busy. He was kind and loving and even though he had a troubled childhood himself, he was a brilliant dad, a great laugh and wonderful storyteller. He’d play the fool and muck around with us but he also really talked to us and never spoke down to us. I hope I’ve become as good a dad as he was.’
Adam and his partner Charlotte, known as Charlie, have two children, Ella (18) and Alfie (14). “We talk about anything and everything, but obviously we have a lot of conversations about the countryside, farming and wildlife. We share lots of experiences.”
Is Adam hoping they will take over the farm and farm park like he did?
“If they’re interested and want to do it” he replies. “There’ll always be a place here for them but it’s got to come from them. Ella helps out with lambing and at the farm park shop and café but she’s more into English and Drama, so seems likely to go down the thespian route. My paternal grandparents were in that business and my uncle is the actor Nicky Henson. Alfie loves the land but he’s also very interested in Design and Technology.
“It’s actually thanks to Charlie that I joined Countryfile in the first place. At the end of one episode in 2001, they announced they were looking for a new presenter and Charlie said I should apply. I didn’t take her seriously at first but the idea started to grow. I was delighted when I got the job.”
Is running the two careers difficult?
“Sometimes it can be,” Adam muses. “It takes a lot of time and energy. But I have a fantastic business partner in Duncan Adams. We went to college together, travelled the world together and ended up in business together. We run the farm, the farm park and all the rare breeds. We’ve surrounded ourselves with great managers who look after the place when I’m not there and work very closely with Duncan. The TV thing won’t last forever so I’m very fortunate to have the farm; farming is my true love.”
- Like Farmer, Like Son by Adam Henson is published in hardback by BBC Books at £18.99.
- Words and interview by Alison James
- For more star chat, pick up the latest copy of Yours magazine
Did you know....?
- In 2013 Adam teamed up with celebrity chef Nigel Slater to co-present Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen, a four-part series exploring how food gets from farm to fork, and how to make the most of seasonal produce
- Adam filmed three series for BBC Lambing Live alongside Kate Humble, the third series of which aired in spring 2014
- In 2015 Adam presented a new series of BBC1’s Secret Britain with Ellie Harrison. This three-part series discovered the Water World of Wales, the Mysterious Moors of Yorkshire and The Hidden Highland of Scotland