Jimmy Doherty had a dream, to run a “free range” pig farm and help rescue rare breeds. Those of you who have watched the Jimmy’s Farm series on the BBC or read any of his books will know it has never been plain sailing but Jimmy’s Farm is still around today… but for how much longer?
I live fairly close to Jimmy’s Farm and have visited it many times, especially for the Farmers Market. Mrs ITs Food and ITs Food Jnr have even appeared in the TV show as unwitting extras in the background! Things have never run smoothly for Jimmy though. Apart from the ups and downs highlighted in the TV series I’ve heard many “stories” locally about disgruntled ex-butchers and staff; royalties allegedly ring-fenced separately from the farm; issues with Health & Safety; etc.. Whether these are true or not, I don’t know. To me they’re gossip, nothing more, I’ll concentrate on the facts and my personal opinions. I worry that Jimmy’s Farm may not be around for much longer and this is why…
- “TV farmer halves herd over costs“ said a recent BBC news article. The price of wheat (therefore feed) has almost doubled recently and has hit pig farmers hard. Jimmy has had to reduce his breeding sows from 90 down to 30. It’s a sad sight at the farm driving past the empty fields. With many pig farmers facing the real possibility of having to close their doors only the leanest, most efficient farms will survive. If you’ve watched the Jimmy’s Farm series you’ll probably have the same impression as me, Jimmy’s Farm EATS money.
- The Farmers Market. When we first started visiting the Jimmy’s Farm Farmers Market we loved it. There were more and more suppliers there each month with an excellent array of wares. Once the exit road from the Car Park was put it it was even better! Dolly always did a fine job of directing you to a spare space. Then, the number of suppliers started to drop, not massively but you would turn up and think “hmm, not as many stalls as last time”. Then they started charging £1 for parking. A bit cheeky but we paid like everyone else to help cover the cost of car park attendants (and Dolly still!). Unfortunately the decline has continued. The last farmers market was terrible. Hardly any stalls, and less customers than normal. The usually busy car park was half as full as normal. If it wasn’t for the excellent St Peter’s Brewery (12 for £20!) being at the Farmers Market I doubt we’d go.
- The Choice. Not only has the choice at the Farmers Market declined so seemingly has the choice in the shop. My favourite Carrot Cake from McLaren’s Pure & Natural is just one of the products which seems to have been replaced with a bog standard Deli collection. There’s only one thing in the Jimmy’s Farm shop that brings me back again and again and that’s their EXCELLENT Beer Sausage which uses malted hops from St Peter’s Brewery, no wonder I like them so much! But, that’s the ONLY thing I would call special. Without the Beer Sausages, why would I go back? I have an excellent local butcher who can provide me with quality cuts of whatever I want. Unfortunately for Jimmy, a rival has recently opened up nearby, The Suffolk Food Hall. You may remember Michaela (Jimmy’s partner) visiting the site in the TV series. She was worried at the time about the competition with the application saying Jimmy’s farm was more of a “tourist attraction” rather than a farm shop.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’d love Jimmy’s Farm to be a success. I’d love to visit a packed Farmers Market filled with great local suppliers. I’d love to see pigs running free in Jimmy’s woods again. But my last visit really made me think that Jimmy’s dream may well be over.