Former Formula One world champion Jody Scheckter founded Laverstoke Park Farm in 1996 and today leads the way in biodynamic farming methods in the UK. Diane Lane finds out more
Q How did the farm come about and what was your aim?
While working in Atlanta I bought a small farm to relax at weekends. My wife Clare bought me a book on organic farming and I absorbed all I could on the subject. When we moved to the UK I was able to put into practice my research and ideas although at this point my motivation was producing the best tasting, healthiest food for my family. Initially we had just 500 acres; today Laverstoke Park comprises 2500 acres, is certified as biodynamic by Demeter and organic by the Soil Association.
Q What farming methods do you employ?
We employ both organic and biodynamic methods; however we go much further than this and I refer to our methods as "farming with nature". By this I mean we follow nature strictly, with the onus on the soil because if you are what you eat, then you are what your animal eats and 90% of farming is the soil.
We sow our pastures with a mix of 31 herbs, clovers and grasses as this is closer to what you would find in a natural environment. Such a rich blend will also pull different concentrations of nutrients from the soil, providing a more diverse food source than just one grass.
Also of paramount importance to us is slow-growing animals. To put this into context, a battery farmed chicken will live for 37 days, an organic one for 80 days and a Laverstoke chicken for 110 days.
Q How much does science come in to your farming?
Science doesn't hold all the answers, but it does allow us to make informed decisions to manage our soil in a productive manner that is in harmony with nature, and ultimately produce quality, nutritionally rich food with an exceptional taste.
Our soil lab provides valuable information and advice on soil fertility, not only to our farm staff but to many outside farms as well.
Q What other facilities do you have on site?
We have an abattoir, for the simple reason that having invested so much to ensure our produce is the best it possibly can be, it makes no sense to send our livestock away to an abattoir, thus inducing stress on the animal that will have an enormously negative impact upon the quality of the meat.
We also have a dairy that produces mozzarella, burrata and ice-cream using fresh buffalo milk from our own herd of 2,000+ water buffalo; and a meat processing facility, which is used to produce sausages, burgers, salamis and biltong. We also have a kitchen where we produce pies and pâtés.
â- Buffalo milk, mozzarella and ice-cream
â- Burgers - buffalo or organic beef
â- Dry-cured nitrate-free organic bacon, beef "bacon" and buffalo "bacon"
â- Organic beef, including dry aged for 28 days
â- Organic free-range chicken
â- Organic free-range pork
â- Organic lamb
â- Organic offal
â- Sausages including organic pork, Cumberland and buffalo
â- Organic bottle-conditioned beer
WHAT DO CHEFS SAY?
"Excellent animal husbandry is at the heart of Jody's practices and I believe this contributes enormously to the fantastic quality of the meat."
Raymond Blanc, chef-patron, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
"The free-range chicken was superb: flesh sticking to the bones, flavoursome and juicy, with skin that crisps. It delivered all the promises of a bird that ran in a field and ate proper food."
Bruno Loubet, chef-patron, Bistrot Bruno Loubet
"The mozzarella has a good creamy texture, with a slight acidity. You could eat it by itself with olive oil and salt. 10/10."
Angela Harnett, chef-patron, Murano