When I started Just Kidding in July 2013, I could never have imagined what lay ahead – to be honest I’m not sure there was even a proper plan at that stage! I had an idea and a determination to see it through and the rest is history. The nine years since have been the most challenging and rewarding time in my life.
As is often the case with farming, the boundaries between business and life are blurred and the first blurring of this line brought Jamie into Just Kidding and my life – neither of which would be what they are today without him. We have come such a long way together here at Dartland Farm and I have no regrets – life would not be what is now otherwise – and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Just Kidding was the first to show that there is another way with the dairy billy kid. They can be reared to produce an Award Winning healthy red meat that holds its own on a Michelin starred menu, whilst ensuring that the billies are reared to the highest standard, aligned with nature. It has not always been a smooth process and many a tear has been shed in sheer frustration and physical exhaustion – but we did it – and after taking the time to learn what best suits the billies, a sustainable business was crafted.
Just Kidding has thrown Jamie and I into situations we could never have imagined…. talking to Orlando Bloom on Southend Pier about our Kid meat, as an example, eating at some of the finest restaurants in the country – and meeting the hugely talented chefs who cook our meat. From radio and TV to broadsheet newspapers, we could never have imagined just where Just Kidding would take us and who we would meet along the way.
One of the greatest pleasures has been our customers.
We have exchanged emails and phone calls over the years and we have got to know you and you, us. It has always been central that our customers were part of Just Kidding and showing you the farm and the Kids when you collect your orders or came for a pop-up supper has been an opportunity to give you an insight into just how your food is produced. It also gave us great pleasure to meet so many interesting people – YOU! And to share goat stories and puns, learn family recipes and, most of all, understand who is buying our meat and why.
To reach this point in the journey has been the hardest.
Circumstances outside of our control have made Just Kidding in its current form no longer viable for us. The two years of Covid hit us very hard and we were thrilled to come out the other side but reserves, both financially and personally, were low. When you are a farmer, your life and the lives of all those around become enveloped in the farm and that has a huge impact – positive and negative. Friends and family have helped us far above and beyond in the last nine years.
As a small farm, we cannot justify employing staff and so the 365-day commitment is a lot to bear; and now, with our own family to consider we both feel this is no longer sustainable and we would like our friends and family to be in our lives for pleasure, not just helping us out!
When Farmdrop went bust the week before Christmas last year, I feel our fate was sealed: owing us money and with so much stock allocated to them, we knew it would be incredibly hard to bounce back.
Since then, worldwide events have also impacted our small farm enormously; everything has gone up in price and not just a little but to unsustainable levels. Our small farm and business just cannot weather all these factors at once and we do not want to jeopardise everything we have worked so hard for to keep going on regardless.
We have decided to pause the Just Kidding story, we are going to take stock, live a little and see what is around the corner.
Both Jamie and I are hugely proud of what Just Kidding has accomplished in nine years and its legacy lives on; the land is thriving, buzzing with wildlife in the trees and hedges and the memories and experiences we have shared will never be forgotten.
This is not the end, but an interval.
Getting back to the practical….
We are, in the meantime, still very much open and will have our meat available until early Autumn – so you can keep enjoying our meat and spreading the word about Kid meat. If you have not had our meat for a while, now is the time, I can genuinely say it is limited edition, as are our Kid skins!
Whilst we are not running courses this summer I am offering one to one/ private groups for goat keeping courses here on the farm and so if that secret goat keeper within pops out please just email me and we can get something arranged.
As always thank you for your support over the last nine years and we both thank you in advance for sticking with us this Summer.
Lizzie, Jamie and Wilbur