A MOTOR racing driver turned organic farmer has been given the seal of approval by his Italian counterparts after answering an international challenge.

Jody Scheckter, who won the 1979 Formula One World Championship but now runs Laverstoke Park Farm, in Overton, visited the Campania region of Italy at the end of March to take part in the Grand Prix of Cheese event.

Jody had been challenged to back up his claims that his Hampshire-produced buffalo mozzarella was at least as good as that made in Italy.

Pier Maria Saccani, director from Consortium for the Protection of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, laid down the gauntlet, but said he was impressed with the fruits of Jody’s labour.

“I think that it’s a good product," he said.

“Different from our own but in my opinion the strict connection with territory has relevance on production.

“But with reference to different use of buffalo milk, I’m very impressed with their (Laverstoke) ice cream, it’s very good and a very interesting product.”

Jody and his team spent two days visiting buffalo farms in the region, including mozzarella giant Frattorie Garafalo and Ponte Reale, the first organic and biodynamic farm in Campania.

He added: “They welcomed us with open arms and they gave us such an invaluable insight into their cheese making processes and how they manage animals.

“It is no question that we learned a lot and came away very inspired to try different things to further improve our mozzarella.”

Jody, whose own biodynamic farm prides itself on its environmentally friendly methods, has always been confident in the quality of his mozzarella.

“We have spent a long time getting our cheese just right,” said Jody.

“I really do believe we have a fantastic product and our trip to Italy confirmed this.

“The Italian cheesemakers were certainly impressed with what they tasted.”

Laverstoke Park Farm now plans to return the favour and host a visit from the Italian mozzarella-makers in the near future.