Farming high up on the Central Lakeland fells is Peter Bland. Peter and his family have been a fixture of the land between Grasmere and Thirlmere for at least three generations, with Peter's father once running the well-known Herdwick farm at West Head.
Peter's farm, Knott Houses, sits at the bottom on the valley directly below Fairfield Peak and Seat Sandal. This strategic farm gives Peter's Herdwick sheep access to pristine acres of unbroken land on top of the fells. It can take Peter and his son Robert days to do 'the gather'. This is the means of shepherding with sheep dogs to bring the Herdwicks off the fells for various husbandry needs. As there are no roads to drive up, the assent must be made by foot. Starting at 4:30 in the morning and sometimes not returning until well after dark, this is Lakeland shepherding in its purest form.
Tracing his family back through generations of Herdwick shepherds, Peter is as much a part of the landscape as his Herdwicks are. To walk the fells with Peter is an insight into a unique way of life. The philosophies, knowledge and pragmatism that Peter exudes can only give one the sense that he is a true guardian of the fells.
Watch Peter's video
It is fantastic to work with a company who put the health and welfare of the animals they buy ahead of profit and a company who believes in the conservation of our native rare breeds.
Robin and Andrew Mackay run High Hurst Farm, a self-sufficient smallholding in the Duddon Valley, one of the hidden gems of the Lake District. Born in Cumbria, after spending many years living and working away from the area, Robin and Andrew decided to return to their Cumbrian roots in 2013. They bought a dilapidated farm and, having renovated the farmhouse and outbuildings, set about restoring their land as naturally as they possibly could.
This was soon followed by the acquisition of two Gloucestershire Old Spots, Thelma and Louise. However, as soon as they realised the struggles that our native British rare breed pigs were facing, Robin and Andrew became proactively involved in conservation projects associated with native British rare breeds. As a result, all of their pigs that are of breed standard are preserved to conserve their hugely important heritage.
Their animals are all reared in a natural and caring environment where they enjoy a fun and fulfilling upbringing in the great outdoors and the amazing animals that Robin and Andrew sell to LDF fund their conservation work. In their words
we make sure that all our animals are reared in a natural and caring environment where freedom to exhibit their natural behaviour is positively encouraged.
Watch Robin's video
We've worked with LDF from the very beginning and we've always looked after each other. It's rewarding to know the animals we take such great care of go to some of the best restaurants in the world, it makes me a very proud man.
Millbeck Farm has a long and decorated history. It dates back to 1621 and was subsequently purchased by Beatrix Potter in 1936 specifically for the conservation of Herdwick Sheep. The Herdwicks were tended by Miss Potter's shepherd, Joseph Gregg, and his son Vic, for almost 50 years.
Vic would ultimately become Eric's mentor, taking him under his wing in 1980 to teach him the traditional Herdwick farming methods that have been so successful for almost a thousand years. Eric believes it is the continuation of these long-standing and customary farming methods that is the biggest contributor to the standard of sheep he is able to produce.
Herdwicks are the only breed of sheep able to thrive all year round on the fells of the Lake District. Over the centuries, they have inherently adapted to their natural environment and so have become perfectly suited to the wild and rugged landscape that comprises Millbeck Farm.
After 40 years, Eric still has an infectious passion for all things Herdwick and with his own son now an integral part of work and life on the farm, it looks as though the Taylforth legacy is set to continue for many years to come. In his words
The farm belongs to the sheep and if you look after them, they'll look after you.
Watch Eric's video
It's great to work with a company that have taken their knowledge of a market and created an outlet for rural farmers who rear exceptional quality cattle and sheep. I know the beef and lamb distributed by LDF is second to none.
The earliest reference we can find of Steven's family being involved in farming dates back to 1830 when his great-great-grandfather delivered meat from animals produced on his farm throughout the local village on a horse and cart. Continuing the legacy established by his ancestors before him, Steven started working on the farm at the age of 15, a ritual he has proudly upheld for the past 48 years.
Steven continues to farm the same Heritage breeds, using the exact approach as his great-great-grandfather almost two centuries before him. Animal Welfare is paramount, and Steven believes you only get the best out of your animals if you understand their individual characteristics and look after them properly, giving them a long and fulfilled life. He believes that you have to really get to know them, individually as well as collectively.
Providing the animals with an outdoor life is such a critical part of the rearing process and fattening them on grass is the natural thing to do. It worked back then and it works now. In his words
not a lot has changed over the past two hundred years!