Jimmy's Farm

9 March 2006

Many thanks to Hillel at Tasting Menu for organising the 2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards – this year marks the second time around for this event and the juries have been writing wonderfully about the food they are most enthusiastic about.

My award goes to the rare breed pigs from a local farm called Essex Pig Company. Pig farming is fairly common in East Anglia (where I live) and as you travel in the region you often see pigs in and out of their distinctive hangar-shaped houses. I knew the choice didn’t have to be local produce, but as I wrote before I’ve been more and more interested in where our food comes from and how the animals are treated – and so keen to support small local producers.

The farm is actually located in Suffolk, not in Essex – they got their name from one of the breeds of pig they rear, the Essex pig (pictured above) which was nearly extinct – and the founder of the farm, Jimmy Doherty, is from Essex too :) Just some trivia, another Essex boy Jamie Oliver is an old friend of his – in the early days, the fact that Jamie helped finance setting up the farm sadly seemed of more interest than the farm itself (and Jimmy denies that it generated much publicity).

He started the farm about two years ago – I actually didn’t know about it until I watched the BBC documentary Jimmy’s Farm. He has a PhD in entomology (I obviously didn’t know what that was :)) and has always been interested in wildlife, having a dream of starting a pig farm where he can produce the best quality pork, bacon and sausages from his herd of rare breed British pigs. All his pigs are rare breed (you can find out more here) and he wanted them to roam free in the ancient woodland where they can forage for wild garlic, acorns and chestnuts etc. Peter Gott from Sillfield Farm in Cumbria is a fellow rare breed pig farmer and he became Jimmy’s mentor.

The programme followed his struggle to establish the farm, literally from scratch – in the first couple of episodes, one disaster followed another and the number of tasks seemed daunting. He looks much happier when dealing with animals than with bureaucracy/finance/staff issues (I’d be the same :)) – and I guess his passion for farming kept him going. Oh and I should mention that his girlfriend, Michaela, has been doing a brilliant job too – she was working for a TV company in London, but gave all that up and now drives around on a quad bike, chasing animals and getting covered in mud!

I first visited the farm in the early summer of 2004 – although they had started their own farm shop and were selling meat from their farm, they didn’t have enough at the time, so they had to buy some of the rare breed pigs from other farms. Although it was a nice place to visit even then, there didn’t seem to be enough business to keep them going and I hoped they wouldn’t give up. I was amazed by the quality of their meat, though – their bacon is full of flavour and the smell when cooking it is wonderful. It just tastes like meat should, as do their sausages and meat.
 


 

Fortunately they are now getting much busier and have quite a big farmer’s market once a month (every first Saturday). He’s been contacted by some supermarkets but has refused to sell to them – to do so they would have to make their sausages have a longer shelf life, which would mean adding preservatives and therefore a lower meat content. Rather, I like the way that they try to support and bring together the local community, and I hope it encourages others to do the same.
 


 

I like the buzz on market day, but I also enjoy visiting during the week when it’s much quieter – all the animals seem more relaxed too :) You can wander around the woodland which they’ve just converted into a nature trail, where you can see more wildlife and get closer to the farm animals – they’ve now got cows and sheep too, as well as hens and half-a-million honeybees.

They are showing the new series of Jimmy’s farm at the moment. He recently got 100 chickens from the Battery Hens Trust – you can read his message here and please remember that buying free-range eggs will ultimately help reduce the number of chickens kept in battery farms. I can’t agree more with his view that people shouldn’t be asking him why his meat is expensive, they should be walking into supermarkets and asking why theirs is so cheap?
 


I got a big piece of belly pork (my favourite cut) on my last trip – as I always like eating good ingredients prepared simply, I cooked an Italian version of suckling pig, porchetta. I’ve been using this recipe for a long time and managed to get most of the other ingredients locally too – all the herbs are from our garden and a drizzle of lovely Suffolk honey on the gorgeous crackling makes this yummy pork even tastier! I’ve tried a porchetta recipe from Jamie’s new Italy book and it was really nice too.

Oh and you can find plenty more wonderful bacon here :)
 


        44 comments    Permalink

  • what a wonderful place! very nice photos!

    Posted by Kat & Satoshi | 9 March 2006 #
  • Great shots Keiko! I so much would love to visit this place! Makes me homesick! I am not from Essex but my home village is very alike! If I go, I will definitely visit!

    Posted by Bea at La Tartine Gourmande | 10 March 2006 #
  • Absolutely wonderful photos, Keiko - my favourite is the piggy on the top one - brings back happy memories of summers spent at my grandparents’ farm:)

    I’ve seen the programme as well, and it’s fascinating to follow Doherty’s efforts, success and misfortunes - helps one to appreciate well- and ethically-sourced food so much more..

    Posted by Pille | 10 March 2006 #
  • As usual, what beautiful pictures. The post is really good--nicely written and informative. And I agree with Pille--my favourite shot is of the piggy :)

    j

    Posted by jasmine | 10 March 2006 #
  • Keiko, Great post! I love how you cover Jimmy’s Farm (a huge bravo and good luck for them). Your pictures, like always, of course make me want to visit the farm myself. You live in such a beautiful region there. Would love to visit one day. I think it’s great that you chose Jimmy’s Farm to promote what’s best from local good quality businesses, and plus you chose your recipe using the best ingredients from your garden and locally too. Wonderful job, Keiko! Love it once again...ah, how cute those animals in the farm :-)

    Posted by Maya | 10 March 2006 #
  • Ahh this looks like a truly lovely place Keiko, and ultimately what I’d like our wee 5 acre farm in NZ to be in the future, it is a lot of work though. We currently have 2 cows and 1 hen, hehe, since unfortunately I recently lost 5 hens to a wild ferret!

    The little that is left of our 3 sheep is in the freezer, kinda sounds like it must be time to stock up! ;-)

    I’ve never kept pigs though, they are so intelligent and make fantastic pets. Therefore I’m afraid if I kept them it would be the end of pork on my menus.

    As always thanks for sharing such a inspiring post and set of pics!

    Posted by Bron | 10 March 2006 #
  • What a wonderful entry Keiko! Belly (and shoulder) are my favourite cut too! My brother always cook a roll of belly pork this way too (with an exception of drizzled honey (wait til i tell him!) - and it has become a treat whenever we’re invited round for a meal (he knows how much we like this dish since we always request it!).

    I have watched this documentary a couple of years back now, i think. Haven’t seen the follow up - i’m pleased they are doing so well now. It sure looks like a wonderful place to go. The photos are gorgeous as usual especially the pig at the top (it’s so cute!). And the belly pork.... so enticingly golden...

    Posted by mae | 10 March 2006 #
  • Thank you, Keiko, for your gorgeous photos and wonderfully informative writeup about Jimmy’s farm. I remember some of the hype that surrounded Jamie’s involvement at the beginning (though I didn’t actually watch the program), but I’m so glad to see that even without the celebrity around he’s able to make a successful business. A very well-deserved award, in my opinion!

    Posted by melissa | 10 March 2006 #
  • what an exceptional write up and the images beautifully complement the article.. :)

    Posted by Lil | 10 March 2006 #
  • Isn’t it a tad insensitive to be talking about cooking that cute little thing? :-( Poor pigs.

    Posted by Melissa | 10 March 2006 #
  • very informative and beautiful pictures! brava come sempre :)

    ciao

    Posted by fiordizucca | 10 March 2006 #
  • Hi Keiko, it’s nice to see this kind of business doing well on their own, and you guys’re lucky to have a place like this around. the pork looks and sounds amazing! thanks for the beautiful post :)

    Posted by chika | 10 March 2006 #
  • Keiko,

    This is such a beautiful, beautiful post. I LOVE the pictures of the pigs and your porchetta looks divine. Thanks for linking to me... I’m going to link to this post as well. What a wonderful, and well-deserved award!!

    Posted by megwoo | 10 March 2006 #
  • At first glance i thought the last pig was made of chocolate.

    Great story - I wish them all the best success.

    Makes me want to move to the country and become a farmer!

    Posted by sam | 11 March 2006 #
  • hi keiko, a wonderful ode to the pig...i can’t stop scrolling back to the pork belly/porchetta montage to admire their beauty! your post makes me miss the pork from swaddles green in somerset (they also rear old english rare breeds)

    Posted by Joycelyn | 11 March 2006 #
  • What a wonderful post.

    All the pictures are so beutiful and that pork belly looks so very delicious!

    Posted by fanny | 11 March 2006 #
  • Very nice article Keiko and wonderful pix to compliment it - you’ve definitely made me want to visit this place

    Posted by Ruby in Bury | 11 March 2006 #
  • Are you crazy ? I want the same, pictures, recipes ... You make people jealous.

    Posted by AnneE | 11 March 2006 #
  • Beautiful post! It is so nice to see rare breeds preserved and actually utilized. Bravo for them!

    Posted by Diane | 11 March 2006 #
  • blessed pig. i love it for everything it gives us. like homer simpson said, "sure, it’s a magical animal that gives us sausages, ham, pork chops, and bacon?"

    Posted by vanessa | 11 March 2006 #
  • Keiko, I have been following the show on tv.It is so wonderful to see projects like this being succesfull. I have also learnt a lot from your post as there were quite a few things that I did not know. Thank you for sharing all this - including your gorgeous recipes.

    Posted by valentina | 12 March 2006 #
  • As always, gorgeous photos, Keiko, and a great story, too.

    As a farmer’s granddaughter, we made pets out of some of the calves, and piglets, but it never stopped us from eating them in the end. We named them all, and thanked them, by name when we said grace at the table. It is how we were.

    I am very pleased to see more farmers taking up heritage breeds and working with them--that makes me quite happy for many reasons. Many of these very worthy creatures might otherwise go extinct because they are not good for feedlot or battery cage industrial farming methods. I am glad that small farmers recognize the worthiness of these breeds and thus have saved them from extinction.

    Posted by Barbara | 12 March 2006 #
  • Beautiful job! The way you write is very organized and informative! You even di wonderful job with putting the pictures together! I MUST say that your food blog is one of my favorites now! You rawks! Arigato Gomaizen for sharing this with us!

    Posted by Yvette | 13 March 2006 #
  • Hi

    I also watched this programme with interest and am glad to hear that business is picking up for Jimmy. It’s great that you have actually had the opportunity to try the produce, it sounds wonderful. I might have to take a trip up there myself.

    Posted by GastroChick | 14 March 2006 #
  • Your pic. are always brillant!!! The pig is so cute.

    Posted by shanna | 14 March 2006 #
  • These photos are really wonderful! Especially the one of the pig on top. How cute!

    Posted by Claudia | 15 March 2006 #
  • keiko-san nice photo!! and yummy! :D

    Posted by azu | 15 March 2006 #
  • Keiko this is what I miss about living in UK organic farms and shops..i have read about Jimmy’s Farm before when we were still in Hampshire ( i lived in an organic estate)

    i fully agree with you about the quality of the meat.

    its a great post here and the photos are fab as usual.

    just came back from dusseldorf

    Posted by sha | 15 March 2006 #
  • I am happy to see another food blogger give an award to a farm (or ranch, as the case may be). I gave my award to a couple for their chickens, but they are also raising heritage breeds of pigs and maybe turkeys, too.

    Love makes tasty meat, eh?

    : D

    Posted by Tana | 15 March 2006 #
  • I have great respect for these traditional organic farmers that breed farm animals in proper & humane way.

    Modern farming may produced much more with greater efficieny, but their methods cold & disturbing to the animals & possibly people (once they learnt how animals were bred there). Also, greater availability of food seems to make people take things for granted which leads to excessive food wastage.

    Your excellent writeup have help to expose people to these small & wonderful traditional local farming people that produce high quality produce in an ethical way. It have been wonderful reading this.

    p.s: did I mentioned it was one of my dream to own a farm? but i’m more into fruits & edibles plants. Too bad, living in country with limited land, this dream seems too far & impossible for now :(

    Posted by slurp! | 15 March 2006 #
  • I’ll have to return to comment on the actual content later. Right now I’m just left speechless from your photography.

    WOW.

    Posted by matt armendariz | 16 March 2006 #
  • Your first picture of the pig is so cute you almost feel like it should have a name and talk! Sounds like a great place. I have to take a trip to England again soon.

    Posted by Kelli | 19 March 2006 #
  • The pictures are great! And so is the porchetta - perfect crackling skin. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I’m gonna attempt it one day - I love the pork belly part too (although not the healthiest!).

    Posted by steffles | 19 March 2006 #
  • Hi there, thank you so much for all your notes.

    Pille, Valentina, GastroChick - I’ve just watched the last episode of the new series, I hope they will keep up the good work.

    Jasmine, Shanna, Claudia - I was really lucky to take that shot.

    Maya - I always learn new things from your wonderful and informative posts, thanks again.

    Bron - I can imagine how hard it must be, look forward to seeing some of your farm pictures.

    Mae - your brother must be as great a cook as you :)

    Melissa - you find Jamie’s signature and books in the shop :)

    Melissa - I assume you said I’m insensitive because you don’t eat meat at all. I learnt a lot of things from Barbara’s wonderful post, it’s worth reading even though you are a vegetarian.

    Megwoo - thank you for your wonderful post, I’ll keep you posted when I find some more bacon ;)

    Sam - I can see you being a farmer’s wife :)

    Joycelyn - there are actually quite a few rare-breed farms even just around here, but because I’ve seen them starting from scratch I’m quite attached to them.

    Ruby - shall we visit together?

    Vanessa - I like Marge’s beehive hair...

    Barbara - thank you so much again for your wonderful, informative post. I really hope others will follow in their foot steps.

    Sha - is it easy to find organic stuff in Greece?

    Tana - ’love makes tasty meat’ indeed!

    Slurp - I’m glad you feel the same way, I didn’t know you wanted to own a farm though! You should keep that dream - it might happen one day, you never know (and let me know if it does :))

    Kelli - you must let me know if you come over.

    Steffles - I know, but the fat tastes wonderful ;)

    Posted by keiko | 22 March 2006 #
  • Thank you very much indeed for such a wonderful write up on the farm. We couldn’t do this without the support we’ve had - a million thanks. Jimmy and Michaela x

    Posted by Jimmy And Michaela | 10 July 2006 #
  • Hi Jimmy and Michaela i just want to congratulate you on the effort you guys have put so far in the farm, its amazing how calm you have been. am big fun of yours and i have also started my own pig farm in Tanzania,Africa. So, i was wandering if you could help me on how to be as successful as you

    Posted by Elibariki Maeda | 11 April 2007 #
  • Hello Jimmy and Michaela, i just wanted to say you guys are absolutely great. I love the farm and hope to visit it someday. It’s going to be hard though, considering i live in Lebanon, hehe… Anyways keep doing what your’re doing. You guys are great. I wish you the best of luck. xxoxx

    Posted by Khadige | 7 July 2007 #
  • I am so pleased you are doing well and your dream burns bright. Keep the faith and keep going. So many people enjoyed the show and wished you success. Two lovely people deserve lovely lives! May you live long and enjoy the fruits of your hard labour

    Posted by helen | 12 August 2007 #
  • Did you know that their is ashortage of pig products in China which is part of their staple diet.Perhaps an export opportunity?

    Posted by mike | 11 September 2007 #
  • Have you thought of selling your produce to us the English In France. One Essex person to another thought you might like to know there are plenty of us over here speaking from Charente Maritime area. We love our English Sausages well to be honest any English meats really. Great living here but honestly nothing beats the good Old English Pork Sausage. Just love the programme Best of Luck. John and Christina

    Posted by Christina Hernon | 12 September 2007 #
  • It was lovely to hear your write up about jimmys farm.We too have been watching his program and can’t wait to take our children there,i’d love to buy our weekly shop of meat & veg too everything looked so good,let us know if they send out as far as south wales.i’d be very interested.
    They all work so hard on the program ,I feel they deserve to be successful!!keep it up your doing fantastic!

    Posted by sharon | 30 September 2007 #
  • Hi there, thank you for all your kind notes. It’s lovely you leave a comment here but I’m sure the people at the farm would love to hear from you directly :) You can write to them here
    http://www.jimmysfarm.com/index.cfm/fa/contact

    Posted by keiko | 21 January 2008 #
  • I caught the first programme aired on paytv in Australia tonight. I had to research on the net to see how the farm turns out. And it was started years ago. Us good old Aussies never get anything til the last moment. I loved the show and I could indentify with Jimmy’s determination. So glad the dream came true. Wonderful.

    Posted by Jan Clark | 2 March 2008 #
  • hi i have been watching jimmys farm and what a great show so glad that all is going well keep up the great work all the best

    Posted by lisa | 9 June 2008 #
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