“Throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year will see me right”
As we sat down in the restaurant at “Jimmy’s Farm” the sound of one of my favourite songs (artists ‘Elbow’) came over the room. Completely appropriate at the time, but let me wind back the clock a little first.
Some years ago (doesn’t seem like many but possibly over 5 now) I came across a TV documentary series “Jimmy’s Farm”. It was the story of an English man (and childhood friend of Jamie Oliver) Jimmy Doherty who took on the challenge of farming despite no experience. His main project was setting up the Essex Pig company, an effort to breed rare pigs with a focus on ‘free-range’ style of farming. The show followed his financial struggles, the complications of breeding rare animals, the adventures of creating a self-sustaining business that was also a place of business and the balance of marketing and promoting his successes. With attractions such as ‘Guinea Pig Island’ for the kids together with Farmer’s markets for those health-aspiring home cooks, Jimmy’s farm eventually grew to the success it is today. Jimmy has gone on to tackle large chain supermarkets such as Tesco (Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket) to consider lines of foods from more animal-friendly farming methods. A big fan, I couldn’t come to the UK without popping in for a visit.
The farm now has a number of animals happily grazing in the lovely green English pastures. As we drove up the driveway the first to greet us were my favourite …llamas!! A variety of very friendly sheep and goats, there were also Ferretts (yes, they do bite) and rabbits. Guinea Pig village and the chook pen. There was also the Woodland and Butterfly house (toasty in there).
Then the great field of what the farm was all about ….pigs. Being summertime, pens were filled with mummy pigs and their ‘farrows’ (litters) of piglets. They were sooooooo cute. This is where true appreciation of food begins.
These days it is all too easy to walk into a supermarket, throw a few pre-packed cuts of meat into the trolley, cook it up and eat it without even beginning to think about where it came from. It’s not uncommon for people to have no idea of their food source or the process involved getting it ‘customer ready’. Only recently did I discover that many food prices (such as milk) are set by the supermarkets with the farmers left with whatever they are prepared to pay for it. Sadly in a competitive market it’s the hard-working farmers that end up with the short-end of the deal.
As I stood there adoringly looking at their cute little curly tails I felt an immense amount of gratitude for these animals that one day would end up as someone’s breakfast. Yes, a bit sad when you think of it that way, but on the other hand comforting that at least in this case the animals have all led a happy life, wandering the fields and given a lot of love and care. It is a reality that most of us eat animals, it doesn’t have to be a reality that the animals need to be farmed in confined spaces with little regard for their welfare in general.
“Throw those curtains wide”
I challenge anyone reading this to actually think about where their food comes from, the ‘food miles’ it has traveled. Is it local or has it cost our environment a heavy price in transport from overseas? How are the animals farmed? What has been done to the food? Is it even recognisable as it’s original form? There is an unfortunate reality that in order to provide an adequate food source for our population farming methods and practices have changed to support ‘mass production’, look for something more ‘old-school’ and it will usually come with a price we cannot all necessarily afford. In the very least, pause for a moment and think about it and perhaps at least have a new appreciation for what has just been dumped into your trolley.
After a fun morning running around the farm, feeding the animals and playing with butterflies, I get back to where I started as we moved into the restaurant for lunch. I contemplated a few of their menu options but the roast pork came up number 1. I couldn’t be in a better place for top quality pork on my plate.
I considered ordering the ‘pork crackling’ extra side, but given there was some to come with my roast I let it go. What was I thinking???? As we finished off our meals I suddenly became most jealous of the man at the next table with his ‘bucket’ of crackling. Do you serve this stuff take-away???
Before leaving we stopped into their food market. With an on-site butcher there was a range of award winning meats. Local produce of vegetables and eggs, together with preserves and sauces it was good to know their ‘food miles’ were limited. Jimmy’s farm also hosts a local Food Market on-site each month, as well as special family activity days or dining evenings in the restaurant. Definitely a great day out for families.
“…one day like this a year will see me right”