Born in Jamaica, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones was brought to inner-city Birmingham at the age of three. As rural farmers his parents had lived off the land, growing fruit and having pigs to trade at local markets. In Birmingham, Wilfred’s father rented an allotment to subsidise his income.

As the oldest of nine children, the responsibility for the allotment’s trials and tribulations fell to Wilfred. In direct contrast to the fruit they grew in the Caribbean, the family allotment in Smallheath focussed on producing vegetables for the kitchen table. Wilfred grew carrots, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, sweetcorn, broad beans, lettuce, tomatoes, runner beans, peas and tons of potatoes.

He says, “There were lots of successes because there needed to be. Vigilance against predators was vital. I was particularly fascinated with growing cabbages but despite netting, it was a daily battle against the Cabbage White butterfly and caterpillars. Slugs were an ongoing problem that had to be dealt with - my father favoured salt. Some of my earliest memories are of having to harvest the Brussels sprouts in the cold frosty weather - not my favourite task!”

In fact, Wilfred adores the peace and tranquillity that the allotment gave him and remembers it as “my oasis from the misery I was surrounded by” in an impoverished inner-city area. At 11 years of age he made a promise to himself that he would one day have his own farm. Thirty years later, Wilfred owns a 30-acre farm in Devon.

His route to the farm was sometimes glamorous but frequently circuitous. He had an unsuccessful spell in the army and worked as a chef before producing and directing for the BBC where he brought many celebrity chefs to the small screen for the first time including Gordon Ramsay, Antony Worrall-Thompson, Brian Turner and James Martin. He founded a food and drink marketing company in London and finally, aged 40, he fulfilled his childhood dream to own a farm.

He says, “When I bought the farm other farmers were shocked, partly because I’m black and partly because I come from an urban background. Outsiders can more easily see opportunities and I see a big disconnect between rural and urban Britain. Rural people can be scornful of city dwellers but in fact they should befriend them because they can influence retailers, they have buying power.”

Today Wilfred runs a highly successful business, The Black Farmer, which markets sausages, chicken, burgers, meatballs, bacon and eggs. All are gluten-free and the meat is RSPCA assured. A next door neighbour used to refer to Wilfred as ‘the black farmer’ and rather than take offence, Wilfred decided it had a strong marketing ring to it.

He has strong opinions on rural affairs, justice for small producers and giving young people more opportunity. He runs a rural scholarship scheme to give young people from inner city communities the opportunity to experience what it is really like to live and work in the rural community. “Giving opportunity to others is a key focus in my life. Throughout my own life and career I have had a helping hand from others.” Having recently survived leukaemia Wilfred feels even more passionate about this. “I’m lucky to be alive and part of one’s legacy is to give back. That’s what it’s all about.”