Dairy farmer lands book deal after creating a one-off gift

What started out as mutual hobbies turned into two exclusive book deals for two farmers who photographed farming through two very different lenses.

Before I meet Richard Cornock at his family farm in a South Gloucestershire village, I am greeted by Rusty the Jack Russell. I know her name from the reading I did before arriving here. She appears in a number of pictures and it is clear from flicking through Richard’s book, ‘A Year on a Dairy Farm’, this was, to begin with anyway, a very personal account of life on his family’s farm.

In January 2009, Richard went into a local supermarket and bought a £90 digital camera with the idea of recording the happenings on New House Farm over 12 months.

“At that stage I didn’t really have a plan, the idea was just to snap away,” says Richard. That is what he did until October, before starting to think about what to do with all his captures on camera.

He came up with the idea of putting the pictures into a book for what he describes as a ‘one-off’ Christmas present for his mum and dad.

“Using an internet site a friend had told me about, I had the pictures printed in a hardback book with a little bit of text here and there and it cost me about £50. I thought that was as far as I was going to go with it.”

After giving the book to his parents on Christmas Day over the farmhouse kitchen table, family and friends admired the book during the festive period and some even told him he should get it published.

“I knew nothing about publishing. I thought that was the sort of thing which happened to other people, not me.”

Soon after, Richard read an article in the local newspaper about a lady who had had her own book published and he looked up the publishers on the internet.

“It turned out Amberley publishers were just up the road from here in Stroud. So I emailed them and they came back to me and asked to see me about my book.

“This sort of thing isn’t what we are used to dealing with, but in January 2010 I had an interview with the publishers and they offered me a UK-wide book deal.”

New House Farm

  • 56 hectares (140 acres)
  • 80 British Friesian cows and followers
  • Works with brother, Tom, and father Billy
  • Farm in HLS scheme - involves replanting orchards and restoring them to their traditional state

Reprints

While Richard already had a book of pictures, the publishers were keen for him to write about what was happening on the farm to accompany the photos. Apart from grammar and punctuation, the publishers changed very little of what Richard went on to write, despite his expectations they would ‘chop and change it’.

The book hit the shops in August 2011 and 1,800 copies were originally printed, with the publishers warning Richard it would probably take up to three years for these to sell. But almost all of these were sold in the first three months, so the book went for a reprint in January.

Richard says he never expected this sort of level of success and he puts it down to the book ‘offering a slice of rural England’.

“If you didn’t know where the pictures had been taken, you would think it was anywhere in the UK. A lot of copies have sold abroad with some going to ex-pats in Australia, Japan and Canada.”

While Richard admits the book deal is not going to make him rich, he says it has been instrumental in opening many other doors. “I’ve been asked to do talks at a range of groups, including WIs and also photography groups.”

As well as public speaking commitments, Richard writes a column in the NFU’s British Farmer and Grower magazine and has a regular slot on BBC Radio Bristol.

“One thing leads to another and after the book came out I was interviewed by the radio station in August. At the end of the interview I jokingly asked the presenter to come down to the farm and get his hands dirty for the day.

“He did, and it’s now a regular slot with around 20,000 listeners. It’s a good way of getting information out there to the public and although we have a laugh doing it, I also mention some of the more serious problems within the industry.

“I want to make the public understand what’s going on in farming, without sounding like I’m preaching to them.”

When taking the pictures Richard says he had to be ‘disciplined’, and although he never intended the pictures to be seen by anyone else, he did put considerable time and effort into getting the pictures he wanted.

“Sometimes I really didn’t feel like taking the camera out with me, but I did have the camera with me at all times. It involved taking step ladders down the field when getting the cows up, standing on a car roof to get good views and hiding behind walls to get action shots of my family, who often didn’t want their pictures taken.”

As well as educating the public about what happens on a dairy farm, Richard also wanted to give something back to the industry by donating some of the royalties from the book to RABI.

“Although we’ve not had dealings with the charity ourselves we were Dairy Farmers of Britain producers and when the company collapsed it was a very painful time for a lot of farmers. The book shows the nice side of farming, but the reality of it should not be forgotten either.”

Despite never even reading a photography magazine, Richard has now been booked to give a talk to a photography group and has his sights set on producing a documentary-style video chronicling a year on the farm.

Quick fire questions

What book are you reading at the moment?

I like reading autobiographies. At the moment I’m reading Chris Evans’

What’s your favourite album?

I’m into music from the 1960s and 1970s, so I’d probably say ‘The Best of George Harrison’.

What was the last film you saw?

The King’s Speech.

Favourite picture in your book?

I’ve got a lot of favourites, but if I had to pick one it would be the one of the dandelion head.

Harder

“It’s a lot harder to do this in a video as it’s not as easy to stop what I’m doing to get the shots I want, and everything has to be done in real-time.”

With his hands already full being dad to Jack, two, and four-week-old Harry, Richard says he has no outlet for the video yet, but he’s just seeing what happens.

“My family were pretty surprised about the whole book thing, and they’re never quite sure what I’m going to do next.

“I’m still surprised myself about what’s happened and I never imagined the pictures I’d taken would end up in a book. I guess I just got lucky really.”

Competition

’A Year on a Dairy Farm’ by Richard Cornock is published by Amberley Publishing and priced £16.99. For your chance to win a copy of the book send us your name and address by July 29 to:
Danusia Osiowy (book competition), Farmers Guardian, Unit 4 Fulwood Business Park, Caxton Road, Preston, PR2 9NZ. The first two names drawn out will receive a copy of the book

 

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