In April, we spent a glorious afternoon being shown around the vast Laverstoke Park Farm owned by 70’s race icon Jody Scheckter. It couldn’t be farther from the F1 race tracks if it tried (although, during the month of August the farm turns over a few fields to CarFest, the brainchild of Chris Evans, in the name of Children in Need!).
Jody started his organic/biodynamic farm in North Hampshire, in 1996, wanting to produce the best-tasting, healthiest food without compromise for himself and his family. However, he soon realised that as a smallholder this meant he and his family would be eating beef continuously for eight weeks whenever a cow was slaughtered. It was at this point he decided to make the same food available to the public.
Out of pure curiosity, Jody went on a trip to see water buffalo. The more he learnt about them, from their higher-protein milk, and lower cholesterol meat, to their naturally curious and tactile nature, the more he knew that he wanted to have Asian water buffalo at the farm. They are called Water Buffalo as in the wild they inhabit swampy, wet areas.
Reared in large straw bedded yards, or grassy paddocks, the young buffalo are fed on a completely natural diet of hay, straw, a blend of GM free cereals or grass from clover rich pastures. Buffalo is full flavoured and tender. It can be prepared much the same way as beef without special handling. Buffalo meat is a tasty alternative to beef.
All the parks wild boar, live their entire lives outside, producing leaner meat which has a richer taste than pork. Wild boar are subject to the Dangerous Animals Act and are kept in a purpose-built outdoor facility incorporating some woodland, keeping them in as natural an environment as possible. From 2008 Laverstoke Wild Boar has not only gained numerous Great Taste Awards but also a Good Pig Award from Compassion for World Farming.
Today his farm holds 1,500 buffalo, 400 cattle (Traditional Hereford and Aberdeen Angus), Wild Boar (The original pig), Middle White rare pigs, 800 ancient breed of Hebridean sheep, chickens, turkeys, a vineyard, walled garden producing organic vegetables and herbs, soil laboratory, pet food and an Education Centre (which has already seen 10,000 children from nursery, primary, secondary, colleges and organisations such as Scouts. No longer a small holding, this farm utilises everything from the soil up.
The farm also has a licensed seven acre site to make their own compost and compost teas (liquid compost), producing around 40,000 tons of compost annually. They even take in green council waste. This is then monitored in their state-of-the-art laboratory and once finished turned back onto the farm for nutrients. This further enriches the soil for them to produce a ‘mixed salad’ containing 31 different herbs, clovers and grasses, feed for their animals. The team believe “you are not what you eat but what your animals eat”. So this near perfect soil goes a long way to helping produce their own feeds as much as possible.
Jody and his team are currently in the process of making sparkling wine (it cannot be called champagne for the obvious reasons). At present this is not for public consumption although we were told it was very very nice!
The 2500 acres of Laverstoke Park Farm and the parkland at Laverstoke are certified as biodynamic by Demeter and is classed as organic by the Soil Association. The team have established the only licensed Soil Foodweb Laboratory in Europe to study the activity of different groups of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.