Way, way back on a cold and blustery day in February I had the great pleasure of meeting Jon Hackett at Brooklands Farm, high above St Brelades Bay. The weather may have been cold but the company wasn’t – I haven’t met such a warm and friendly (cheeky) family in a very long time!
Me & The Farmer is a small, family-run business which operates from a farm in Rue des Genets, St Brelades. The farm shop consists of two mobile trailers – one which houses the fresh meat products and the other for cooked products, sitting in an enclave in the middle of the fields where the pigs are roaming free. If you are looking for a zero food miles option for meat, you can’t get much closer than that!
The headland above St Brelade’s Bay was bought by Jon’s grandfather, John Josephus in the 1920’s. He’d come to Jersey to benefit from the climate, following a stroke, and initially lived in Brooklands flats on Trinity Hill. When he bought the headland, the Brooklands name came with him and the land has been Brooklands Farm since. An architect by trade, he built a few houses on the land, but there was very little interest in them initially – that certainly wouldn’t be the case now! The houses were ultimately handed down to his children, and then the grandchildren, which is how Jon and wife Jenny came to be on the land.
Jon spent his teenage years at a boarding school in England, leaving to work in a Building Society in London where he worked his way up to becoming branch manager at the tender age of 23 years old. But, by 30 years old, he was bored! He and Jenny put a deposit on a Winniebago to go traveling with little ones Mandy and Lucy, but then Katy made an appearance and the family moved to their house in Jersey instead. After a varied career in Finance, firstly with Standard Chartered, a States Loan Officer and then a mortgage broker with Homebuyers, Jon retired at 55. But whilst working in finance Jon had always dabbled with animal husbandry – keeping chickens for a while and also working with Darren Quenault and his cows, milking before heading off to work!
As a hobby in his retirement Jon started to keep a few cows to show, grazing them on the parcels of land around the house that he’d bought, piecemeal, over the years. From here he progressed to a few pigs, and such was the response that he started breeding more and more pigs to meet the word-of-mouth demand. At first it was just the meat he sold, but soon Jon was experimenting with meat products, and fondly remembers Jenny making hundreds of beef patties by hand in the early days. The farm now has over 100 pigs, mainly of the breed Oxford Sandy and Black, which is one of the oldest, native British pig breeds. Hardy and docile, the breed is suitable to be reared outside. It is so lovely to actually see the pigs roaming free, being able to root around in the ground as they would naturally. Pigs are naturally intelligent and very inquisitive.
From when the bull and sow mate, it takes exactly 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 three days for the piglets to be born. Sows are bred twice a year, and Jon has three people locally raising piglets for him, which he takes on in batches of roughly 30 pigs at a time. For the first litter a sow will have 4-6 piglets, moving up to 9-10 piglets in subsequent litters.
In the main fields the pigs have the ability to roam free and root to their hearts content, with 24 hour access to a pen for protection from the weather, and access to water and food. Jon & Jenny’s pigs are fed on a cereal based diet through self-feeders – using grains as they are a high protein source.
As you can see, the pigs are very energetic foragers, turning over the land in search of something to eat. This is a natural behavior in wild boars and genetically the domestic pigs still have this trait. This does mean than Jon has to re-seed his fields on a rolling basis, about every six months!
No valentine visit to Brooklands Farm would be complete without mentioning the handsome Mr Chewy. He ticks all the boxes! A fine head of hair, a good coat and all his own teeth – what’s not to love…..
The farm is a small, friendly, family-run business where Jon and Jenny work alongside daughter Kate, and staff Clint and Lee (the butcher). Their processing plant is in two separate units and forms part of the family home. In one part the raw meat is butchered into ready made sizes for the farm stall, or raw products such as sausages. The other unit is kept separate for making the delicious array of cooked products which are sold on the farm stall, or sold in a wide variety of outlets around the whole island. (Le Bray, La Pulente, Co-op St Peters, Classic Farm, Andre Vitel, Country butchers, Midland Stores, The Works, Feast, Fresh Fish, Coopers & Co, Coffee Republic, Lamplighters, Leak and Bean, Boat House & Le Hocq – to name but a few).
And what a collection of absolutely delicious, lip-smacking choices there are to be made! From a wide selection of scotch eggs (Happy Hens eggs) – basic, white pudding, black pudding, chorizo, breakfast – to sausage rolls, pork pies and a huge selection of pasties (Cornish, Chicken & chorizo, Beef and Stilton, Jamaican beef, curry veg and cheese, onion & potato). Thank you Jenny, Katy and Clint for your 5 am starts to get all these amazing products made!
The farm stall sells the meat reared on the farm, and you can also get it from the Co-op in St Helier. If you are looking for meat produced locally, zero food miles, sustainably and accountably then you really couldn’t get much better than visiting Me & the Farmer at their farm stall. You can see for yourselves how the animals are kept and treated, with freedom to root and roam. You can call the farm and speak to Jenny directly to place your orders.
An added bonus for me is that you don’t have to have your products wrapped in plastic – so being zero waste is easy here if you are following the #plasticfreejersey campaign – just take your own containers with you and Katy will serve straight into them. Local and zero waste makes it a win all round.
A huge thank you to Jon and Katy for their time, for showing me around your whole farm and production set up and sharing all your knowledge so freely. Katy – Thanks for securing me the last valentines pork pie for my hubby – apparently nothing says ‘I love you’ quite as well as a Brooklands Farm pork pie. Jon, you’re an inspiration to someone like me who longs to be a smallholder in Jersey, but is currently working in Finance – I know i’ll get there one day, even if it’s only when I retire as you did!
For more information on Me & The Farmer, Brooklands Farm and Jon Hackett please see the links below: