Tom Mitchell and Aimee Parry

Profession:
Owners of the Happy Goat Company

About my job

Alongside my day job as an agricultural machinery sales rep, I run the Happy Goat Company with my fiancée Aimee on the family farm in Herefordshire. We’ve got just over 100 goats. We breed them, rear them and, after taking them to a local abattoir, we process and butcher the meat ourselves. People feel reassured knowing we have control of the process from start to finish and we get fantastic feedback. Our goats graze and roam the farm pasture in the summer and come inside for the winter ready for kidding. This allows them to express natural behaviour while keeping them in good health and condition. We think the way we do it is why our meat is so good. Although we initially only sold to pubs and restaurants in the county, demand for our products has meant we also now have a strong customer base at farmers’ markets and on the internet but we still sell at the farm gates too. Our new ready meal - goat, apricot and almond tagine - is very popular and so are our sausages and burgers! After putting in so much hard work, we’re thrilled to see the business expanding and becoming sustainable, with a thriving market for the product we produce.

How it all started

It was back in 2011 when Aimee started working on a large scale goat dairy in the black mountains. There were so many people producing home bred beef and lamb but we both wanted to do something a bit different, so we looked at what could be done with the billy goats that were not being utilised in the dairy industry. It all started with two pet goats, Rosie and Monty, when I was studying an Agriculture degree at Hartpury and Aimee was doing a college animal management course, but we didn’t start really breeding goats until 2013. We now have 35 breeding nannies and 65 fattening goats, and, having created a market, we can now sell live animals as well as breeding nannies to small holders.

The best bit about my job

It is difficult to choose one best bit, but probably the first day of Spring when we turn the nannies out with their new-born kids into the fields with the sun shining. We feel privileged to have created a successful business that we both feel so passionately about.

Why I chose Hartpury for a degree

I hadn’t thought about doing a degree at all but when I was leaving college, Hartpury offered me the change to study part-time. I would not have been able to complete the course without being able to still work pretty much full-time in the season as a tractor driver to fund myself. Being able to fit it around work made it possible to complete the course, but sometimes I would work a solid 24 hours from 8am to 8am and then have to go back in for a lecture after lunch! My lecturers understood this and helped me a lot.

My advice to future students

Look at the wider picture; don’t just focus on a certain part of agriculture. I studied farm mechanisation but ended up starting up a successful business in livestock and meat production. Get as much experience you can of all types of farming and don’t be afraid to do some long hours. It will definitely pay off in the end.

What’s next?

Goat is actually the world’s most commonly eaten red meat, but when we started up, it wasn’t particularly popular in the UK and we had to create our own market for our products. Demand has exploded here in the last 18 months to two years though as goat has become trendy - it was even described as the food of 2015! People are increasingly concerned about traceability and want to eat products that are produced locally. We’re doing so well at the moment with plenty of markets, so we need to up our goat numbers and build a new building to house them in winter time. We have long term plans for the retail side too; more farmers markets and hopefully supplying more restaurants as they want to put goat meat on the menu. Maybe one day, we’ll even open our own farm shop in Hereford high town, perhaps selling hot goat tagine and goat kebabs to take away.