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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
One formula for organic farming
By Rob Pittam
Working Lunch

Jody Scheckter
Jody's farm is losing money but he plans to change this soon
Watch: Laverstoke Park Farm
Watch: What is 'biodynamic'?
The former world champion racing driver Jody Scheckter runs his farm the way he ran his racing career - from the front and at breakneck speed.

As he whisked me at 60mph down tiny farmyard tracks Jody explained the principles behind his revolutionary Laverstoke Park farm in Hampshire.

It's strictly organic and follows a system of farming known as biodynamic; a sort of new age approach to agriculture, but it is also at the leading edge of scientific research into farming.

Jody has poured millions of pounds into the 2,500 acres and so far, he hasn't had a penny of it back.

The main principles of organic farming are well known, but what about biodynamics? Well, it's a way of taking nature and, like Jody's formula one cars, turbocharging it.

Biodiversity is the key here. Jody believes that from the soil up, there should be as much life as possible on the farm.

It begins with a huge composting operation, enough for 40,000 tons a year, which produces natural fertiliser teeming with bacterial life.

Farm machine
The farm has a composting site where waste is turned into fertiliser

That in turn promotes a wider variety of plants - the animals here graze on more than 30 types of grass and herbs. The idea is that the variety makes them healthier and naturally more resistant to disease.

There's diversity too in the range of animals bred on the farm. There are sheep, rare breeds of cattle, wild boars, pigs, geese and even water buffalo.

The animals are bred for longer and when the time comes for their slaughter, instead of a long journey on a cattle truck, they are taken to a purpose built abattoir on the farm, another of Jody's innovations.

The same principle is used for plants. A greenhouse operation close to Lymington in Hampshire has three acres of fruit and vegetables.

Here again the principle of diversity is on display, with tomatoes growing next to peppers, aubergines cheek by jowl with cucumbers and salads mixed in with beans.

Most farms like this would grow just one crop or breed just one type of cattle. And there's a reason for that - it's more efficient.

Jody at the moment is losing money. But he's determined to show his principles can work.

He's financially secure. After his racing career he set up a business in America which uses simulators to help police and military forces in weapons training. Selling the business made him rich.

There are plenty of reminders of Jody's racing past. In a garage he has almost a dozen of his old racing cars. He let me sit in the red Ferrari in which he won the Formula 1 championship in 1979.

Cow
The farm has sheep, wild boars, pigs, geese and even water buffalo

But his talk was more of the challenges of the future rather than the victories of the past.

His farm is designed to be more than just a rich man's toy. Jody wants it to be self sustaining, to prove that something like this can work.

There are signs that he may be on the right path. The food produced here is sold in organic box schemes around the country and his buffalo burgers and buffalo milk are now on the shelves in Waitrose.

After two years building up the farm, Jody's told the managers who run it they now have to start to turn a profit. If he succeeds, that could well prove to be his biggest victory of all.

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