Dottie, Mrs T, Brucie and Lottie. These jolly names may sound like they’re characters from a children’s TV show, butÂ they are in fact the affectionate monikers given to organic farmer Jeremy Davis’s beloved Saddleback pigs.
Brucie is a two-and-a-half-year-old boar and daddy to the 20 or so little piglets born to Mrs T et al who are running around the 16th-century woodland that surrounds Jeremy’s picturesque Eridge smallholding, named after his wife Lynne.
Jeremy has been raising the pedigree breed on his 40-acre organic farm for the past decade.
“There was a little bit of pig farming in my family but not an awful lot,” he explains while gently coaxing a grunting Brucie and very shy Dottie to come and say ‘hello’.
The former City worker decided to quit the rat race ten years ago in order to pursue his dream of running an organicÂ farm, turning his ‘little bit’ of knowledge into a small yet successful operation which also boasts free-range chickens and all manner of seasonal fruit and vegetables.
“If you ask me: ‘Why should I buy organic?’ it’s because the difference between organic and non-organic is huge – particularly with pork,” states Jeremy. “Pork has no regulation on what you call free range. The cheapest way to produce a pig is to keep it in an enclosed space and don’t let it move,” he continues. “It’ll eat less feed and put on more weight.”
Jeremy’s Saddlebacks couldn’t be in more different surroundings. They’re left to freely forage for food and as a result help to churn up the land which then cultivates it.
This rustic approach chimes in with Jeremy’s organic farming ethos of not using heavy duty machinery or chemicals to deliver quick results. It’s all about respecting the good earth and the livestock, which is why his farm was awarded Soil Association status in 2007.
“There are more organic fruit and veg growers than anything else,” JeremyÂ says when commenting on organic farming as a whole. “But there are less organic egg producers and there are virtually no organic pork producers.”
This is what makes Jeremy’s distinctlyÂ non-commercial operation so unique: “Not a lot of people can produce pork in their back garden,” he says wryly.
Then there’s the small fact that Jeremy has to make most of the equipmentÂ needed to move the pigs every few months as it simply doesn’t exist.
“For example, non-organic pigs are kept in barns so there’s no call for arcs that you can move around. And youÂ can’t buy an outside feeder or drinker that you can move either. They’re all designed to be screwed into the ground.”
Does he enjoy having to come up with his own solutions in order to keep to his pigs happy,Â healthy and living in the great outdoors?
“Sometimes it is frustrating – especially when it gets warm in the summer and the pigs rip up their drinker because they want to make a wallow in the ground – but there’s just nothing suitable on the market.”
Yet despite all this time-consuming, hands-on effort it does result in great tasting meat which is sold in Jeremy and Lynne’s farm shop.
“The purpose of the shop isÂ that we only sell what we produce,” affirms Jeremy.
“So if people come to us and they want to see the pigs, we say ‘by all means, go out and have aÂ look’. Then they actually know where their food comes from.”
Jeremy insists there’s no comparison between his pork products and the non-organic ones. He’d even go so far as saying you could be blindfolded and still taste the difference.
“Our most popular product is our bacon, it tastes sublime. Saddlebacks are a renowned, brilliant bacon and gammon pig because they have a naturally higher level of fat. That’s because of the breed and because they live outside.”
The couple also sell sausages which Jeremy admits aren’t cheap but are proper pork.
“It’s a very competitive £3 for aÂ pack of bacon rashers and £4.50 for a pack of six sausages. The only thing we add to the latter is seasoning, which is organic wheat flour, salt and pepper. We also do gluten-free sausages. I’ve tasted both and I can’t tell the difference.
“Some people love our roasting joints – shoulder is a particularly good all-rounder as the texture is better – and others go for chops or cured meats.
“We’re not a factory so we don’t have fresh pork every single weekend but we do sell some frozen cuts which are butchered just a couple of days beforehand meaning they are fresher than anything you’ll buy in the shops.”
Jeremy and Lynne provide The Blue Anchor in Crowborough with their meat but have no plans to expand any further.
“I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m looking at a field of pigs and I don’t know who their mother was or how old they are. That would completely lose it for me,” Jeremy confesses.
“To know the lineage, to know where they came from – that’s important. I look at them every day so I know whether they’re fat, thin, when they’re ready to go. You would lose all that familiarity when they got too many.”
Somehow that seems very unlikely to happen anytime soon…
Lynne’s Organic Farm is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 5
For more information see: www.lynnesorganicfarm.org or visit Lynne’s Organic Farm, Limekiln Forest Road, Eridge TN3 9LQ