We speak to Jacob’s Ladder Farms to find out more about their biodynamic and organic farming, how they celebrate and promote sustainable farmers, and THOSE burgers.
Describe Jacob’s Ladder Farms in three words…
Sustainable caring farmers.
How did it all begin?
It all began in 2010, when my husband had native Sussex beef cattle and Romney sheep ready to sell to the market. It took six years altogether to convert the farm to biodynamic status and build the herd and flock up from scratch. I have spent most of my life helping small scale, mainly organic or traditional farmers find a market for their produce and latterly forming Jacob’s Ladder Farms.
“I tasted organically grown strawberries and unpasteurised Jersey cream. I couldn’t believe the flavour and it led to me to asking why modern farming practice produces food without flavour.”
What inspired you to get into organic farming?
I was born into a farming family and became interested in organic farming 30 years ago when I tasted organically grown strawberries and unpasteurised Jersey cream sold using an honesty box system on the side of a leafy lane. I couldn’t believe the flavour and it led to me to asking why modern farming practice produces food without flavour.
Why did you decide to get into the street food scene?
We found it difficult to utilise the whole animal and started the burger business to overcome this problem. The street food industry also helps to support the good work that we do.
We love the Stichelton cheese you add to the burger at the Southbank Centre Food Market, tell us more…
The three-month old Stichelton is made by our dear friend Joe Schneider. My husband and I once had a milking herd and I had just finished working at Neal’s Yard Dairy. I wanted to make the most fabulous raw milk cheese with milk from a biodynamic farm. It took me two years to find Joe and he’s proved to be one of the greatest cheesemakers of our time. What could be better than to marry Joe’s cheese with our beef? And it has also proved to be the perfect marriage.
“What we add to the burger is also very important to us: a great bun, ours is brioche made by an artisan baker using organic flour. And the cooking – it’s very easy to kill a burger by not cooking it to perfection.”
With so many burger spots around London how do you make yourselves stand out?
Our animals have eaten pasture from land where the soil is in good health and the animals are grass-fed only. We use native or rare breeds which usually means they take time to mature and there is plenty of fat – all leading to good flavour. What we add to the burger is also very important to us. A great bun, ours is brioche made by an artisan baker using organic flour. Finally, the cooking – it’s very easy to kill a burger by not cooking it to perfection.
What makes a sustainable and biodynamic farm?
A sustainable farm doesn’t rely on buying anything in, we produce all of our own feed and bedding; you are able to offer complete traceability and healthy land for future generations. There are many very complex aspects of biodynamic meat production which has taken me almost a lifetime to fully understand and appreciate! Some basics are that it is a closed herd or flock (which means that the animals have been born and raised on the farm) and they are happy and not stressed.
Which London markets can we find you at?
Southbank Centre Food Market every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I’d like to take this opportunity to say how grateful we are to the Southbank Centre Food Market for giving us our first access to the public with our burgers. This partnership has really helped to support Jacob’s Ladder which in turn has helped to support all the sustainable farmers that we work with. We are also very grateful to Herne Hill Market as we have been there since the beginning and finally Norwood Feast has also been very supportive.
What aims do you have for Jacob’s Ladder in the near and distant future?
To produce and sell more good burgers and to support more good farmers.
Jacob’s Ladder Farms | Find them at Southbank Centre Food Market every Friday, Saturday and Sunday | Herne Hill Market every Sunday | Norwood Feast on the first Sunday of every month
Top image: @AlicetheCamera