Video: From French fame to British beef: Eurosport TV presenter’s career change to breed pedigree Hereford cattle
Copyright: Archant 2014
From the glamour of a TV career in Paris to breeding pedigree cattle in Norfolk, it is a homecoming career change which has brought fresh impetus to a traditional family farm.
It may seem the most unlikely of career moves – leaving behind a glamorous career as a TV presenter in Paris to establish a pedigree cattle herd in Norfolk.
But after swapping French fame for British beef, Jeremy Buxton said it made perfect sense to come home to his family’s farm after 12 years of travelling the world, interviewing some of the globe’s top sporting icons.
Now, after securing his first show prize with one of his Hereford bulls, he is looking to further develop the herd, its brand and the farm’s long-term success.
Mr Buxton, 38, returned to Eves Hill Farm in Booton, near Reepham, in October 2012 after leaving his role with TV channel Eurosport.
Despite the thrills of a dream job in a glittering European capital, he said he had an “epiphany” when he realised he could no longer ignore the allure of a Norfolk country life, working with livestock.
“A lot of people were really shocked, even my close friends,” he said. “Eurosport didn’t want me to leave, but Paris was never a ‘forever home’, or a ‘forever job’. So I said I was going to move to London as a freelancer.
“The job took me all around the world and I met some great people, but I wouldn’t say I was a great presenter. I was slightly daunted by the prospect of finding work, and the prospect of going back and forward to London, to meetings and screenings, without any guarantee of getting a job... I could see my life passing me by on a train and never getting anywhere.
“All the while I was spending my time back at the farm here and thinking: ‘Maybe I should give it a go’. It came like a bolt out of the blue to my parents.
“I would help Dad after the harvest, doing the subsoiling and helping him with a few things and I just loved it. It made me realise how much of a country boy I am.
“I was interested in a sustainable, traditional way of farming without putting so much chemical on the fields, and using farmyard manure rather than fertiliser. It struck me that our farm could work with livestock on it.”
As his father Robert had previously kept a beef suckler herd at the farm, Mr Buxton said it made sense to work with animals that the family was familiar with.
They bought eight Hereford cows, with nine calves at foot, and two yearling heifers from Greg Flack’s Salcey herd in the Midlands. The stock bull “Harrow” came from Reg Hutchings’ Fisher Herd in East Sussex.
The herd has now grown to 25 animals: ten breeding cows, one stock bull, four breeding bulls for sale, six spring calves, two autumn calves and three yearling heifers, due to go to the bull in December. The ambition is to build the numbers up to 15-20 breeding cows.
“My goal is to build this brand and reputation,” said Mr Buxton. “Greg has a great reputation within the Hereford fraternity and we were lucky to be able to take on such a great herd. Reg is also such a good producer of quality cattle, and what is great is forging that relationship with Reg and Greg. They have been like mentors to me. I get the impression that they want me to do well with the Herefords.
“We are trying to be really strict in terms of our quality criteria. If the bulls are not up to the standard we have got at the moment, they will be going, because we need to maintain quality stock. The thing I have learned about the pedigree is that we have to be brutal about protecting it. I don’t want to sell anything that I wouldn’t want to use myself.”
The growing herd’s finest hour arrived at the Aylsham Show in August, when Eves Hill Leo won the prize for best bull in the 16-month age group.
“If someone had said two years ago that I would be showing cattle, I would never have believed them,” said Mr Buxton. “I never really knew how important showing is, but now I know it is a very important part of breeding pedigree cattle.
“We started as complete novices. We were turning up without the right equipment and the stewards were asking: ‘Do you know how to put the brakes on?’
“It is very time-consuming, but to get a result like this makes it all worthwhile. The Aylsham Show was great, but we need to consistently win prizes if we want to move the herd forward, get more recognition and get our name out there.
“Hopefully this is just the start of more great things.”
Those future plans for the 250-acre farm include further diversification for the business, which is a partnership between Mr Buxton and his parents Robert and Rita.
“A farm of our size needs to diversify as far as we can,” he said. “When I came back we were purely an arable farm. Now we have got the cattle, but we need to keep it going. We have put in a camp site and we have put in a planning application for a farm shop and a cafe.
“It is a long way in advance, but we are anticipating Eves Hill becoming a brand, and selling those Eves Hill products in the farm shop.
“My Dad is 67 now. If I hadn’t come back, my parents could either have rented out the farm, or sold it. I don’t know which they would have favoured, but keeping the farm in the family is the best way.
“Now it is all about making the farm more sustainable and viable in this volatile place we find ourselves in. For me, having been away in a completely different industry, I just see it as a business. We need marketing, PR, websites and social media. It all has a part to play.
“Because farming can be such a precarious business, a farm like ours will need to do everything it can to survive.”
Mr Buxton had some simple advice for anyone considering a complete change of working environment.
“Take a leap of faith,” he said. “Just back yourself and go for it.
“There is nothing worse than having regrets. I might have some, after doing this, but when you are down the pub and someone is bending your ear saying: ‘I hate my job’, you should be able to say: ‘Well, what are you doing about it?’”
“My idea is to work hard, but work hard doing something you enjoy, because if you work hard doing something you enjoy, you will be successful.”
Mr Buxton’s TV career with Eurosport took him around the world to meet sporting celebrities including West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle in the Indian Premier League, former world champion 100m sprinter Kim Collins in St Kitts, the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand and French World Cup-winning footballer Frank Leboeuf.
Although he enjoyed his time in Paris, the former TV presenter said he had no regrets about returning home to Norfolk. “I was a bit of a hell-raiser in Paris,” he said. “Me and my peer group enjoyed the good life, and working in TV meant we had the means to do it. But that was some years ago now and I feel like I have got it out of my system.
“I had such a fantastic time and I am so grateful to Eurosport for giving me the chance to travel the world and give me the experiences which I’ve had.
“But I had the feeling towards the end of it that I would never have the chance to settle down unless I did something different.”