Most people know Jody Scheckter as a daring South African Formula 1 racer in the 70s and world champion winner in 1979. What many may not know is Scheckter‚Äôs life since as a savvy and successful entrepreneur and a progressive thinker now involved in the pioneering world of biodynamic farming. To explain the root of this motivation and inspiration throughout his life he says, ‚ÄúAlthough it‚Äôs changing as I get older, it was probably the fear of losing that has motivated me the most.‚Äù
The biodynamic farming method developed in the 1920s presents a myriad of solutions to today‚Äôs growing ecology, population and food dilemmas. “Basically,” Scheckter says, “we follow nature.”¬†We spoke to him about the importance of this farming method in today‚Äôs world as well as his biodynamic farm in Hampshire.
Scheckter originally started¬†Laverstoke Park Farm¬†to produce healthy, organic food for himself and his family, but as the produce out grew their demands, he decided to make his produce available to the public.
“Basically, we follow nature.”
The Laverstoke philosophy is founded on the belief that our health is interlinked with what we eat. That the soil in which our produce is grown affects nutrition. If the animals we eat are eating natural, chemical-free vegetation, the true quality of what we are eating is escalated. By the same token, if our produce is grown in chemical ridden soil, and our livestock eat this same produce, we are essentially eating those same chemicals.
The alternative farming technique was developed by forward thinker Rudolf Steiner in 1924 as a remedy to unhealthy and unsustainable chemical farming methods. The same chemical methods that are inexplicably implemented as our main farming methods today.
Biodynamic farming can be likened to organic farming on steroids. Like organic farming the approach uses manures and composts as opposed to chemicals. It then takes the agricultural approach further by following nature and allowing the whole farm to function on a cyclical system. Crops are rotated, livestock feed on natural vegetation, the livestock manures are then used as compost and so the cycle continues. Biodynamic farmers even cultivate their own seed through open pollination. This allows seed to be locally adapted and also prevents reliance on multi-national seed companies for stock. Ultimately the farm aims to sustain itself.
It sounds like the answer to everything. However, while this method still struggles to be profitable in thriving first world economies, it begs the question, is this method of farming sustainable in less economically developed countries? Scheckter thinks so, ‚ÄúThe fundamentals of natural, organic farming are the same for small holding to big farms,‚Äù he explains.¬†In fact Laverstoke supported Farm Africa, a non-profit organisation that aims to alleviate Africa‚Äôs food crisis, when they visited a farm in the Transkei, a struggling economic area in South Africa. ‚ÄúThe sad part was that they were using chemicals that most of the world had banned when they could have been using what they had there naturally,‚Äù Scheckter says.
Another spin off from Laverstoke Farm is the Laverstoke Park Education Centre run by Clare Scheckter. Since starting the charity, Jody tells us, “she has had about fifteen thousand children visit. Princess Ann opened it just over a year ago.‚Äù The centre focuses on teaching students about sustainable land management, farm animal welfare and healthy food production from food to fork.
As for his favourite product from Laverstoke, Scheckter says, ‚ÄúI always say our ice-cream is the best in the world as it is made from buffalo milk.‚Äù
Photography by Timothy Atkins