The environment has always been at the heart of everything we do, which is why LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) is so important to us. As a LEAF Demonstration farm and LEAF Marque producer, we are so proud of the work the LEAF team do to encourage other farmers to take a more sustainable approach to their farms.
Here, Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) talks about early beginnings, driving forward more sustainable farming and connecting communities…
LEAF celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. We began life in 1991 with a tiny office at the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire and one very ancient computer! Initially set up as a three-year project, with seed funding for only three years, we had to become self-financing. And we did just that! The focus in those early days was to set up a national network of LEAF Demonstration Farms – to showcase sustainable farming in action. We launched five farms in that first year and created a membership offer that farmers could sign up to.
LEAF was set up to do two things: to promote sustainable farming through Integrated Crop Management (ICM) which, as more livestock farmers came on board, later became Integrated Farm Management (IFM) and secondly, to raise public awareness of what farmers were doing to farm with environmental care. LEAF has grown to become a global leader in delivering more sustainable farming and those two objectives remain as true today as they did then.
Sustainable Farming Through IFM
Consumers increasingly want to know more about what they feed their families; they want to eat healthily; they want to know where their food has come from and how it was produced; they want assurance of its sustainable credentials. As people started to visit our growing network of Demonstration Farms, they were asking where they could buy food they were seeing bring grown. This heralded the beginnings of LEAF Marque – our environmental assurance system.
Today we work in 27 countries with over 900 LEAF Marque certified businesses worldwide and over 40% of UK grown fruit and vegetables is grown on LEAF Marque farms. Farrington’s Mellow Yellow were one of the early trailblazers as both a LEAF Demonstration Farm and one of the earliest adopters of LEAF Marque – the first rapeseed oil to be LEAF Marque certified!
We are hugely proud to have worked with the Farrington’s team over so many years. Their commitment to LEAF and all we stand for, has recently been demonstrated with them becoming the world’s first carbon and plastic neutral food brand.
People have always been at the heart of LEAF’s vision of a world that is farming, eating and living sustainably. Building knowledge and understanding of sustainable farming helps highlight the connections between all living things – soil, plants, animals and people. This understanding gives rise to an attitude of responsibility and care. As a LEAF Demonstration Farm and LEAF Open Farm Sunday host farmer, Farrington’s Mellow Yellow welcomes people from all walks of life to experience farming first hand. Bringing people closer to farming and how their food is produced is opening people’s eyes to the importance of sustainable farming and, in turn, encouraging them to make more sustainable food choices.
The way forward
Reflecting over nearly three decades, LEAF has come a long way! We haven’t achieved this growth alone. There is no magic bullet to optimising sustainable food production. It requires collective efforts of farmers, governments, retailers, NGO’s, scientists and individuals. All of us working together to achieve shared outcomes – more productive soils, cleaner water and air, greater biodiversity, efficient energy use and improved connections with people, farming and the natural world.
The partnerships LEAF has built over its nearly 30-year history will be key as we navigate the next critical few years.