Herdy has always been committed to giving back a percentage of profits to look after the Lakeland landscape. Each year we donate money to the herdyfund - a fund we set up to provide grants and funding to enterprises and organisations promoting the conservation of the Herdwick sheep and rural lifestyle associated with upland fell farming in Cumbria.
Our latest grant was for an event this autumn called Herdwick At Its Best, which aimed to support Herdwick farmers by getting more Herdwick meat onto menus in Lake District pubs, restaurants and hotels during its peak season, and seeing less Herdwick sold as generic ‘lamb’.
We want people living in and visiting the area to have a chance to eat top quality, slow grown, free roaming local produce. And while it may not seem like a good idea to an individual Herdwick, we think it certainly benefits their future as a breed!
Herdwick hogget* and lamb is distinctive produce with a unique flavour. The animals are reared slowly on the Lake District fells, eating a natural diet of heather and grasses. The resulting meat is lean with a rich gamey flavour and contains beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.
We worked with the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association to organise, promote and sponsor the Herdwick At Its Best event, which was aimed at chefs and others in the catering and hospitality industry. Farmers offered a first-hand insight into the farming methods that result in lean, succulent Herdwick meat, explained the effect that grazing has on the landscape of the Lake District and Cumbria, also Herdwick meat’s peak season according to the fell farming year.
We had support from a great range of chefs – top young chef Ryan Blackburn from The Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter did an excellent demonstration, David Jackson of the Leathes Head Hotel, Borrowdale put on a delicious spread of taster dishes to show off the meat to perfection, and Steven Doherty of the Lakeland Café, Windermere came along to add his encouragement.
Chefs attended from top Cumbrian hotels and restaurants including the Borrowdale Hotel, The Cottage in the Wood, Whinlatter, the First Floor Café, Lakeland, the George Hotel, Penrith, Leathes Head Hotel, Borrowdale, the Lodore Falls Hotel, Nent Hall Country House, Alston, the Regent Hotel, Ambleside, Rothay Garden Hotel, Grasmere and the Woolpack Inn, Eskdale. Many took away cuts of prime Herdwick meat to create their own dishes. The event was a great opportunity for asking and answering questions, identifying issues and improving links between different sectors who rarely meet.
Our herdyfund is about supporting a sustainable rural economy, and by farmers sharing their expertise with others in this way, we feel they add value to other local businesses too.
If you’re interested in buying Herdwick meat direct from a farm, the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association website has a list of links to producers. And if you’re eating out in the Lake District – particularly in late winter/early Spring, ask if they serve Herdwick and consider giving it a try.
* While lamb meat tends to come from sheep under a year old, hogget comes from sheep which have passed their first winter, falling between ‘spring lamb’ and mutton.