Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones aka 'The Black Farmer' on his upbringing and new personal development book
PUBLISHED: 12:43 09 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:43 09 October 2018
Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life
Born in Jamaica, raised in Birmingham, settled in Devon. Following a difficult upbringing and overcoming an array of issues throughout life, founder of The Black Farmer, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones has penned a personal development guide and business book like no other.
From a deprived childhood in inner-city Birmingham to becoming one of the nation’s most famous farmers, Wilfred’s book Jeopardy: The Danger of Playing it Safe on the Path to Success encourages the embracement of danger to fulfil lives to a further potential.
Having moved to the UK with his parents during the 1950s where he struggled at school due to unacknowledged dyslexia, Wilfred left the education system without any qualifications.
He recalls: “To begin with I was really ashamed of being dyslexic. I spent the first half of my life trying to hide it and being ashamed that I wasn’t able to operate like others, but in time I came to realise that dyslexia is a gift because it allows you to see things differently.
“I also recognised that creativity and innovation come from being vulnerable. The advice I would give is to be upfront about it and don’t see it as a handicap.
“You can always find someone to correct your spelling, but the creativity comes from within.”
Ambition and persistence helped him talk his way into the BBC, rising to become a producer and director, credited with bringing many of the top UK celebrity chefs to the small screen, including Gordon Ramsay, Antony Worrall-Thompson, Brian Turner and James Martin.
In 2000, Wilfred realised a lifelong dream and bought a farm, which is located between Broadwoodwidger and Lifton. The purchase of this farm inspired him to develop and launch The Black Farmer, his hugely successful food brand that he launched from nothing after remortgaging his house.
The Black Farmer products are now stocked in all major supermarkets and the business has an annual turnover of several million.
Jeopardy, published by Piatkus, demonstrates how it is possible for everyone to go further in life by learning to escape the fears that stop them from achieving their ambitions.
Wilfred explains: “The reason for wanting to write the book is to try and encourage people to understand that rather than being frightened of risk and thinking that jeopardy is something to be avoided, it is in fact an essential part of our lives, be that personal, business or employment. Rather than spend your time being entertained by jeopardy through novels or great films – embrace it in your own life.”
This philosophy is exactly what Wilfred exercised when he relocated to Devon, making his dreams of farming come true.
“From the age of 11, I had the desire to own a farm. I didn’t know that I wanted to farm animals in particular, I just knew I wanted to farm. It just happened that the farm that I eventually bought, its only use was to farm animals,” he says.
Wilfred’s love of the county has not dwindled over the years. He still feels as fortunate to live in this beautiful part of the world as he always has.
He says: “Devon is a place I used to come on holiday. I loved the area and felt very much at home whenever I came. Unlike anywhere else in the UK, I feel that this is where I belong.
“I am fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country.
“For me, the best bits of Devon are the people. You can have the best land and countryside, but if you don’t have nice people then it doesn’t work.
“I just love the people – right down to the local accent. I have tried for years to acquire it, as it has a real charm of its own!
“When I am not working I love to visit and walk on Dartmoor, popping in to Tavistock on the way home for a quick supper at the Cornish Arms – one of my favourite places to eat.”
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
Wilfred will not be confined by race, convention or tradition. Wilfred’s strong opinions on issues such as rural affairs, justice for small producers and giving young people more opportunity have driven much media attention.
In 2005, he launched a rural scholarship scheme through which young people from inner-city communities were given the opportunity to experience what it is like to live and work in the rural community. A Channel 4 documentary filming the progress of the youngsters, Young Black Farmers, has been widely aired to much acclaim.
The entrepreneur brings his ‘anything is possible’ attitude to everything he approaches. He is a business mentor and regularly gives motivational talks to young entrepreneurs. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Marketing by Plymouth University in 2012.