Interviews
June 6, 2018
Q&A with Caroline Drummond, CEO of charity: Linking Environment and Farming

Field of flowers and insects

Can you give us an overview of LEAF?

LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) is a leading global farming and environmental charity. We work with farmers, the food industry, scientists and consumers, to inspire and enable sustainable farming that is prosperous, enriches the environment and engages local communities.

LEAF promotes Integrated Farm Management (IFM), a whole farm business approach that delivers more sustainable farming. We work in three key areas: knowledge generation and exchange; the market place; and public engagement and education.

We have a network of 38 LEAF Demonstration Farms who share best practices, technology, ideas and innovation on IFM. These farms are forward-looking and happy to share what they do to deliver more sustainable farming.

Working alongside these farmers are our LEAF Innovation Centres – made up of some of the UK’s leading research institutions. Their work supports the research, evidence and development of IFM to investigate and communicate best practices. Our management tools include the LEAF Sustainable Farming Review, a decision support system which enables farmers to set targets for improvement across the whole farm.

What are the long-term goals of the organisation?

Strengthening the opportunity for farmers in the marketplace is our global LEAF Marque environmental assurance system.

It provides an opportunity for farmers to be recognised in the marketplace for their environmental efforts and empowers consumers to make positive changes to more sustainable farming through their purchasing decisions.

It recognises more sustainable farm products based on IFM and focuses on soil and water management, pollution control, landscape and nature conservation and community engagement.

With 36% of UK fruit and vegetables now produced by LEAF Marque certified businesses, operating in 34 countries, we are seeing a growing impact from our work.

What is a recent memorable success?

We are building up our work in education and outreach. Our ambition is to embed knowledge, understanding and appreciation of farming into everyday life.

Through LEAF Education we provide training resources and lesson plans for teachers and help farmers navigate the world of education.

Through our FaceTime a Farmer initiative, we bring the world of farming, food and the environment directly to young people in their school classrooms. We also run Open Farm Sunday, the farming industry’s annual open day when farmers welcome people onto farms throughout the UK to discover the story behind their food.

 

LEAF event

Members of the public attend a LEAF event.

 

Over the last 12 years some 2.1 million people have gone out onto farms. The day provides a unique opportunity to make farming come alive for so many who may have never had an opportunity to visit a farm. Last year over 272,000 people came – 18% had never visited a farm before and 86% said they learned something new.

June 5th 2018 is World Environment Day – what is the most pressing issue currently facing our environment?

World Environment Day shines a spotlight on the importance of nature and our precious finite resources. The most pressing issue facing our environment has to be climate change. We are living in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

Too often, however, the complexity of climate change makes it difficult for people to relate their day-to-day decision-making to changes that will improve our environment. It will be crucial for us to develop systems that encourage all of us to make small everyday changes that will benefit our environment.

Farmers see themselves as custodians of the land; however, a large proportion of the public doesn’t share this view. What can be done to change this?

I believe that where the environment was some 25 years ago, the health agenda is now. We currently have a real issue with health, obesity and malnutrition, especially around micronutrients.

Over the last 25 years, farmers have increasingly integrated the importance and responsibility of good soil management and responsible water use to enhance and develop biodiversity. We have lost touch with the natural world; where our food comes from, how it is produced and its impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. Success will effectively integrate health, agriculture, the environment and education.

How can the public become involved in bringing the environment, farming and education closer together?

When I see the enthusiasm of young people in our new food culture alongside the innovations happening in farming, I feel inspired and confident that we will start to see change and improvement.

However, it is critical that we continue to collaborate effectively right across the world, inspiring people and also engaging virtually through new technologies. So, why not visit a farm on LEAF Open Farm Sunday, or get involved with our demonstration farmers and let’s work together for a better environment.

 

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