Together we can go far.
Occasionally in life we meet people that inspire us, they help shape the way we think, evolve our attitudes and influence our approach to how we live our lives. It could be an enthusiastic teacher at school inspiring one to see the beauty in trigonometry or getting that little bit extra out of you on the sports field; an elder family relation full of wisdom and the fun in sharing their knowledge with the younger generation; a work colleague happy to spend time mentoring you in your professional progression. One such person who has certainly influenced and inspired me over the years was Caroline Drummond MBE, Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) for over thirty years.
I first joined LEAF on leaving university in 1993, full of excitement to join the industry I was proud to grow up in, but at the same time I was aware that agriculture was often in the press for the wrong reasons, mostly unfairly, but occasionally I could see how farmers and the farming industry perhaps deserved some of the criticism for poor practices. I felt we could do better.
Sustainable, environmentally conscious food production
LEAFwas young, keen, full of passion and energy too, led by Caroline who I came to know very well and enjoyed working with over the years; she became a good friend as well as a great mentor. LEAF was the brainchild of Norfolk farmer and journalist, David Richardson and a small group of industry figures from a diverse range of organisations. They could see that farming would benefit from a system to help farmers produce healthy food in a more sustainable, environmentally conscious way and, importantly, to go out and tell the general public, our customers what great work we were doing. Caroline was the first employee of LEAF, leading the organisation since its inception in 1991 until her passing in May 2022. She had a great skill for making contacts far and wide, her contacts book was second to none. She has been instrumental in ‘Linking’ people from different sectors together for the collective good. Researchers, farmers, policy makers, NGOs, politicians, retailers, nutritionists, teachers and consumers. Caroline had a great skill bringing us all together, empowering us to find common ground, leading to shared solutions.
Demonstrating our environmental credentials through LEAF
As a farmer, I learnt how to farm better through the annual LEAF Sustainable Farming Review, I learnt how to interact with the general public better through the Speak Out communications initiative, before proudly becoming a LEAF Demonstration Farm in 2003. When I launched Farrington’s Mellow Yellow®, the LEAF Marque offered me a powerful tool to help me demonstrate the sustainable credentials of our products with a credibility that retailers trust, and customers are looking for in the food choices they make. Behind all these initiatives, Caroline’s driving force, passion and positive attitude to make things happen was ever present. Caroline remarked to me once: “LEAF gave me wings,” but in reality I believe it was Caroline who gave me and so many others belief in our abilities and the confidence to fly high.
Doing things better. Continually improving.
Thirty one years after LEAF started, the perception and trust of agriculture and farmers to the wider public has improved beyond all recognition from when I first joined. Farmers are doing things better and we should be proud of our achievements. LEAF farmers are growing their crops in a more sustainable manner through regenerative farming methods; raising livestock with animal welfare standards recognised globally as the benchmark for others to aim for; creating more diverse biodiversity and wildlife habitats around our farms; welcoming the general public onto our farms so they can engage with how their food is produced through LEAF Open Farm Sunday. It is because of LEAF and Caroline’s zeal to do things better, that we know farming and taking care of the environment is not only possible, it’s the only way to farm in the long term.
Caroline loved her quotes, two of which I would like to share here. “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together.” Working with others and especially those we don’t always share the same views with, means we can all go far. Secondly, “When all is said and done, there is often more said than done.” Caroline was the complete antithesis of this, she achieved so much to be proud of and started something very special. It is now time for all of us to continue her great legacy.
A lasting legacy
In memory of Caroline, LEAF have launched the The Sustainability Innovation Award, to inspire others to continue her journey, maintain the momentum she has generated and advance more sustainable farming solutions.
Through a dedicated Memorial Trust, the award will be made annually to an individual or organisation working to deliver innovative climate positive actions, build resilience in our food production systems or in some way, supports the health, diversity and enrichment of food, farms, the environment, and society.
At Farrington’s Mellow Yellow and for me personally, we think this is an excellent cause in memory of someone I was so proud to know and work with; Caroline was my environmental conscience for more than 25 years. LEAF’s Sustainability Innovation Award, set up in her memory will ensure her legacy continues through travel and discovery, research or engagement. It will help drive the pursuit of new and innovative environmental solutions that our planet and society so desperately needs.
We are very proud to support the award and all its endeavours.
If you would like to contribute to the Caroline Drummond Memorial Trust Fund, please contact LEAF.
– Duncan Farrington