Meet Tom Pemberton - YouTube sensation and star of The Fast and the Farmer-ish

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

Farmer, Tom Pemberton with some of his cows in Lytham - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

With a TV series, millions of social media viewers and his first book about to be published, Tom Pemberton is proving there is still life in British farming 

Fans of The Archers will know there are only two types of farmers: the Brian Aldridge, a ruthless smoothie posing in his luxury four-by-four, and the Eddie Grundy, a whining work-shy yokel who will cut any corner to make a bob or two. 

Of course, Tom Pemberton, a rising star of agriculture, defies these stereotypes. He’s young, articulate, passionate about animal welfare, innovative, endlessly enthusiastic and with the ability to play social media like a finely-tuned fiddle. Rumour has it he’s also pretty nifty on the dance floor. 

Happily, he’s a Lancashire lad down to the soles of his wellie boots. 

His dad, Andrew, whose family has been farming in Lytham for five generations, told him to steer clear of agriculture because it was heavy on the back and light on pay. For a while, it looked like he might take his advice. ‘I was a pretty lazy teenager to be honest,’ said Tom. Then, he had an epiphany while on holiday in Portugal. ‘I suddenly wanted to put on a boilersuit and get stuck in.’ 

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

Tom's online videos give an insight into real life on the farm - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

He did just that. A course at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester and a year under the wing of the former milk parlour manager convinced his dad he was ready to fly solo. He now runs the farm, supported by his dad and his mum, Ailsa, and his wife, Joanna. 

Once in charge Tom, 28, didn’t let the grass grow under his feet. He introduced raw milk dispensed by machine and they’ve developed a smart shop that sells meat straight from the farm. ‘I love the fact it’s born, bred and sold here,’ said Tom. 

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

The Pembertons farm shop - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

His plan for the future involves turning the shop at Birks Farm on Ballam Road into a destination for those keen on locally-sourced food. He’d also like to open up parts of the farm as a visitor experience so people can get to know what it’s really like working in agriculture without getting splattered by mud… or worse. 

Most Read

Most remarkably, he has built up a phenomenal following on YouTube. His first video, extolling the benefits of unpasteurised milk, produced a modest 12 views. But Tom isn’t someone to give up and, over the months, that dozen turned to hundreds and then became thousands and now he has 418,000 subscribers.

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

Some of the herd welcome Lancashire Life to Birks Farm - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

He produces two videos a week, occasionally a third on Sundays, and his exuberant record of farm life is watched around the globe. His dad, affectionately known as the Ginger Warrior, also makes an appearance. 

His video about erecting a high-tech scratching post for his dairy herd has been seen almost 7,000,000 times. ‘Farmers have had a bad reputation. This is, I hope, helping to set the record straight,’ he said. 

‘Animal welfare is paramount here and the scratching posts have been part of that. A healthy, contented herd is our aim.’ Money earned from the YouTube channel probably matches the farm income. All of it has been invested in the farm, including a state-of-the-art new shed which isn’t even used by the cattle for half the year. Special rubber matting helps to prevent damage to their hooves. 

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

Tom's video about erecting a high-tech scratching post for his dairy herd has been seen almost 7,000,000 times - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

Tom is convinced that improving the environment for his cows has boosted fertility and milk production. ‘A happy cow, is a more productive cow,’ said Tom. 

Anyone who has seen one of Tom’s videos or watched him on TV knows that he’s a natural. His witty, down to earth commentary shows the reality of running a farm without the sugar-coating you often get on television. His confidence may have something to do with the fact his two big sisters used to use him for dressing up games – a memory that still has him shaking his head. 

His on-screen persona led to BBC3 recruiting him as the face of its tractor racing series, The Fast and the Farmer-ish. It’s basically Top Gear for petrol-head young farmers and he’s hoping a second series will be commissioned. 

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham

Farmer, Tom Pemberton in Lytham - Credit: Kirsty Thompson

‘OK, it’s meant to be a laugh but it’s great to be able to show what young farmers can do. The programme showcases what they have learned working on farms and I hope it turns people on to a career in farming. 

‘Covid and the lockdown has made many people question whether they want to work nine-to-five indoors. Being locked down has made them appreciate the countryside to the extent where you are hearing about more young people taking jobs such as shepherds and shepherdesses. The pay might not be so good but it’s a great life.’ 

The Pembertons farm 250 acres with a dairy herd of 140 along with beef cattle, striking Highlands, plus assorted sheep, goats and some rabbits. The traditional early starts on the farm are often made worse by the need to edit his next video, sometimes starting at 3am. 

In between, he’s travelling the country for his BBC 3 series. He’s content with a weekend off every fortnight and he seems to take the pressure in his stride. ‘I’m never going to be the richest, and there are many, many people worse off, but I firmly believe that you never get anywhere without hard work,’ he said. 

‘I just love what I do. Yes, you have bad days but you always tell yourself tomorrow will be better. Everything you do, you tell yourself that you’ll do it one per cent better the next time. 

‘I know I sound intense and I’m lucky to have such a great team and an understanding wife because I’m probably a nightmare to live with. I have been known to fall asleep in front of the telly at 8.45pm.’ 

As befits a YouTube star, the farm has its own branded merchandise which is looked after by Joanna, who has experience in marketing. 

The next landmark is the publication of his book, Make Hay While the Sun Shines, which tells of Tom’s year on the farm. He’s upfront about the fact he used a ghost writer. 

‘I was always good at maths. No problems at all. But I struggled with English and I was eventually diagnosed as dyslexic.’ Even this hasn’t fazed him. ‘I don’t see it as a disadvantage, it’s just a different way of thinking. 

‘I like to think what we are doing helps to prove there is a future for farming and for farmers in this country. After I’ve finished my five-year plan I might just be able to take a breather. Either that, or I’ll end up broke and divorced!’ 

Make Hay While the Sun Shines: A Year on the Farm by Tom Pemberton is published by Radar,

Make Hay While the Sun Shines: A Year on the Farm by Tom Pemberton is published by Radar - Credit: Radar

* Make Hay While the Sun Shines: A Year on the Farm by Tom Pemberton is published by Radar, £16.99.