Meet James Leatham, one half of the father-and-son team behind one of the South West’s most interesting and unique livestock farms – Lyons Hill Farm.
James and his father, Mark, run Lyons Hill Farm, a wild and beautiful place deep in rural Dorset. James takes pride in their direct field-to-table approach, raising prestigious native rare breeds following natural, old-fashioned farming traditions. At the same time, they strive to improve biodiversity at Lyons Hill through encouraging hedgerows and allowing the growth of natural grasses and wildflowers on their ancient, unimproved pastures.
James has recently returned from living and working in South East Asia to help run their family farm. Together, they want to transform the way people buy meat by selling responsibly bred, high quality products and removing the middleman, allowing people to buy outstanding meats directly from the farmer. But don’t just take our word for it!
According to double Michelin star chef, Phil Howard of Elystan Street Restaurant, “If I had to single out one farmer that absolutely lives and breathes his animals, it’s a man called Mark Leatham at Lyons Hill Farm. His amazing old and rare breed meat is the real deal. You won’t be disappointed.”
What makes Lyons Hill Farm different?
Mark and James are deeply passionate about producing meat that tastes delicious while maintaining the highest levels of animal husbandry; ideal for the modern day, ethical consumer. Buying from them also means you can put something truly unique on the supper table for that special occasion: Portland Hogget, anyone?!
One of the farm’s most exciting produce is their Iron Age pork, a cross between a pedigree Tamworth and Eurasian Wild Boar. These pigs live in woodland, their natural environment, taking at least ten months to reach maturity – double the time commercial pigs would live before slaughter. ‘Slow rearing’ results in a dark and full flavoured meat, far superior in taste and quality to what one can buy in a supermarket. Combine the pig’s long life with its foraged diet and unique wild genes and you have a chance to taste what pork tasted like 4,000 years ago.
The farm’s sheep breed, the Portland, is one of the UK’s oldest and rarest breeds, originally coming from the Isle of Portland (not far from the farm itself). The sheep are smaller than most commercial breeds and live to enjoy two full summers grazing in their fields. This means they are more than two years old when slaughtered, and so their delicate and fine textured meat is sold as ‘hogget’, rather than lamb.
White Park is the oldest breed of native cattle in the British Isles, dating back some 10,000 years, and the most closely related to the mighty Aurochs, the now extinct large, wild cattle that once roamed across Europe and Asia. After a long life grazing natural pastures and with a varied diet (including wildflowers) the meat is lean, marbled and rich, incomparable to the meat of a grain fed cow.
Finally, James’s Cornish chickens are given 180 days of happy, free roaming outdoor life before they reach full maturity for consumption – compared to a mere 42 days for a standard organic chicken. This means their bodies are stronger, have bigger muscles, thicker skin and better fat content, all making for a bird with extraordinary flavour.
The Extra Mile
James and his family go the extra mile to ensure that their meat is worth paying a little bit more for, meaning that you can easily make that transition to buying less meat, but only eating the very best! This is central to James’ farming philosophy: when it comes to meat, less is definitely more!
However, James’ farm is about more than just producing excellent, restaurant quality meat: this local hero wants his farm to be part of a movement of responsible farming that gives back to the environment, rather than just taking from it.