DISTRICT nurse Jessica Gillett has her hands full these days – but her latest charges need a special kind of care…
Jess, of Wyming Brook Farm, combines her day job with life as a pig farmer.
And what started as a hobby has quickly turned into a business: Gerty’s Pork is now an established enterprise, selling quality home-reared rare-breed pork at markets and events across the area.
That means rising each day before 6am to feed and water her herd before setting off for work.
Then she returns home at 5.30pm each day to muck out the animals before making dinner. And when litters are due it also means getting up three times during the night, too.
“It’s hard work but I love it,” says Jess, aged 24.
She moved into Wyming Brook five years ago to be with partner Ashley Mills, whose family have run the farm for nearly a century.
At first she was happy to help out with the cattle and sheep – eager to prove that a girl of her age could get her hands dirty and pull her weight around the place.
But Jess felt she was missing out.
“I wanted something of my own; something I could rear by myself and really take responsibility for,” she says.
Ashley came up with the answer on her 23rd birthday, when he presented her with two Gloucester Old Spot pigs named Winnie and Jemima.
“I absolutely loved them – I took to pig farming right away, so I went back and got two more. It all started from there.”
Jess proved such a natural that her pigs were soon breeding. And by Christmas she was taking orders for pork joints from family and friends.
By February she was confident enough to take a stand at Bradfield Farmers’ Market and Gerty’s Pork was born.
“My dad actually came up with the name – his pet name for me was ‘our Gert’, so it seemed a fitting name for our family business,” she says.
A year on, Jess’s herd has gone from strength to strength. She currently has 16 fattening pigs, 11 piglets and another 11 on the way, in addition to the four breeding sows.
She feeds them a healthy diet of corn, fruit and veg: “They love fresh fruit the most. You should see them eating a whole pineapple, spikes and all!”
The pigs live free range, in their own section of the farm, and enjoy a daily run in the adjoining field to keep them fit.
“The main things our pigs get here at Wyming Brook is a good life,” says Jess.
“With small numbers I’m able to give each one individual attention – as well as a good old tummy tickle!”
Her philosophy is that happy pigs mean happy customers and there are plenty of those.
She sells her sausages and pork joints to local pubs and butchers and also direct from markets across the city.
A favourite with customers are her Pork and Pig Boxes, with a variety of joints, chops and sausages, a range of complementary sauces and chutneys and a discount for a whole or half carcase.
“If you were to ask me five years ago if I would be stood here today, a district nurse and a pig farmer, I would have roared with laughter,” says Jess. “But that’s what I’ve become and I couldn’t have a more wonderful life!”
lGerty’s Pork will be at the city centre farmers’ market in Barker’s Pool during Sheffield Food Festival, July 2-10.