Publicity for your Open Farm Sunday event

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Jo North and her family are third generation tenants of a farm in the South Downs National Park, and they regularly host Open Farm Sunday events. The farm is just shy of 1,000 acres – mixed dairy and arable, with small beef and sheep enterprises; their milk is sold to Tesco, via Arla.  Jo is LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South East and here she considers publicity for Open Farm Sunday events.

For many farmers, their biggest worry is either not having enough visitors or being overrun by too many people on the day.  The weather plays an important part and will undoubtedly impact on visitor numbers, but one thing which is in your control is publicity and how you promote your event.

So for me there are two key parts to publicizing and promoting your event:

  • Promoting your event to get the number of visitors you want, plus
  • Being clear about what visitors can do at your event so that they come prepared!
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Be clear about what visitors can expect at your event

Last year, 22% of Open Farm Sunday visitors had never been on a farm before – so what is obvious to you and me, may be fairly alien to your visitors! If your main event activity is a farm walk which is likely to be muddy, ask visitors to come ready to walk, know to wear wellington or walking boots, and to come with sun tan cream or waterproofs!

Start at the end!

It sounds strange, but the best way to tackle publicity is to first decide what you want to achieve:  how many visitors do you want; where they might come from; and how you are going to reach them.  Once sorted, then you can plan your communications accordingly.

FREE resources

Thanks to the national Open Farm Sunday sponsors, LEAF is able to produce a range of resources for you to promote your event.  Order them free of charge via the website www.farmsunday.org – you will need to log in to the system to place an order.

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Tailor your publicity to the scale of event you are organising

Size is everything!

You will need to adapt your publicity to the scale of event you are organising.

Small events:  If you want to host a very small event for a select group of people, opt to ‘hide’ your event so it does not appear on the Open Farm Sunday website.  Order the FREE Open Farm Sunday postcards which you can use to personally invite friends, neighbours, local interest groups, parish councillors, etc. Ask people to RSVP to give you an idea of how many people will attend.

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Use local networks to promote your event

Medium sized events:  Promote your event in the parish magazine, on village websites. Order FREE Open Farm Sunday A5 flyers and A4 posters to overprint with your event details and distribute locally. Use local networks such as the Scouts, WI, Rotary Club, conservation groups, etc.  Contact local primary schools and ask if you can provide promotional text to go in the school e-newsletter to parents or if they will put an event flyer into each child’s school book bag.

Larger events:  You will need to start early and carry out plenty of promotional activity. Use the Open Farm Sunday flyers and posters and distribute them widely.  Promote your event in local ‘What’s on guides’.  Adapt the template press release and distribute it with a great ‘on farm’ photograph to local and regional newspapers and magazines, your regional TV and radio stations.  Put up Open Farm Sunday road-side banners a couple of weeks before the event.  Use social media to reach out to local communities and spread the word.

Make sure you do enough!

As a general rule, invite twice as many people to get the numbers you want.

A clear event description

When promoting your event on posters, websites, etc, give visitors a clear idea of what to expect.  They will want to know what they can see and do on the farm. If refreshments will be available or if they can bring a picnic.  If dogs are welcome or not.  Whether your event is wheelchair friendly.  Will there be any charges or is the whole event free.  Most importantly, if it rains will the event go ahead and how much will be under cover.

Of course, don’t forget to use some marketing flair:  a farm walk can be packaged as a ‘Farm Safari’!  A fun photograph of a cute animal will appeal to many.

Planning

Don’t forget some publicity tactics require long lead times, such as adding an entry to a ‘What’s on’ guide in a monthly magazine, or getting a feature into a parish magazine.  Other activities are more immediate – it can take minutes to set up a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and you can tap into the power of social media to swiftly have your event promoted, shared and liked by hundreds of people.  It is conceivable that if you unwittingly post something that is far more of a draw than you imagined, you could end up with more people than you bargained for.  However, in my experience this has never happened – but consider what you post before clicking ‘post’!

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

 

Getting started with LEAF Open Farm Sunday

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Doing LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time can seem daunting.  But it doesn’t need to be. With a bit of planning, help on the day and support from LEAF, opening your farm to visitors can be hugely rewarding.  Philip Gorringe, OFS regional co-ordinator for the West Midlands and experienced host farmer explains more…

In the cold light of January, while the memories of mince pies and mistletoe are fading, the decision to register the farm for Open Farm Sunday can feel something of a challenge.  Farms rarely look their best at this time of year and mine is no exception.  However, starting to plan the day and putting my thoughts in order soon combats the doubts.

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Farms come in all shapes and sizes. With some basic planning all are suitable for a public visit.

For me, collaboration is the key tool in clarifying what needs addressing and how. By talking to other farmers and friends, some of whom have opened their farm successfully before, my confidence is soon restored.  My perception that everyone else’s farms are brand new, perfectly manicured examples of model farmyards is soon dispelled. Farms come in all shapes and sizes and the vast majority are, with some basic planning, entirely suitable for a public visit.

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Collaboration is key to a successful Open Farm Sunday event

In my experience, the two most common anxieties seem to be health and safety and ‘Will I be overwhelmed with visitors?’.  I find it helpful to remind myself that Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity for the public to visit my farm on my terms rather than theirs.  Although it is important to keep visitors safe, we all have areas on the farm that we would rather they don’t see or are impossible to make safe.  My ‘in stock’ spare machinery, (some may say scrap), is unsightly and potentially hazardous if people had access to it.  My chemical shed and workshop are not ideal and my concrete yard should have been completely resurfaced ten years ago.

However, it is perfectly acceptable to restrict the areas that visitors have access to.  I have found that they are not necessarily expecting the ‘brochure’ farmyard, they are just keen to hear my story about my farm.  They fully realise it is a working environment, not designed in the first instance for public access.

I also find the impetus that Open Farm Sunday gives me to instigate some tidying up is a positive one.  Remember also that while the farm can look a bit glum in January, by June it is green and hopefully with a sunny day, the whole outlook is changed.  In my experience, some time and thought is very well spent in planning food, hygiene and the order in which people are directed around the farm.  The guidelines provided by LEAF make this easy and inexpensive.  Again, I have found collaboration to be key; by getting the local WI to provide teas and cake for charity, I fully complied with legislation and raised some money for a local good cause.  Engaging friends and neighbours to help with parking, contingency plans and so forth all help to spread my workload on the day.

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Organise your Open Farm Sunday event to suit you and your farm

In terms of the fear of being overwhelmed with visitors, I talked to other host farmers and OFS staff and found their knowledge and experience invaluable. LEAF’s Host Farmer Handbook is full of useful information on the right level of promotion for the number of likely visitors.  I was able to arrange contingencies for parking and traffic to give me a reasonable margin of error and talking to others, reminded me that  problems in this area are extremely rare and really only apply to TV celebrities!

My insurance company were very supportive and also had a wealth of helpful information as did most of our suppliers and contacts who were keen to help and offer advice and experience.

Overall, my main piece of advice to anyone doing Open Farm Sunday for the first time is: start small and organise your event to suit you and your farm.  Then give yourself time and space to enjoy the experience. By accepting help from others, I found I thoroughly enjoyed telling my own story to people who were fascinated by my world without having to worry whether the cake had run out or someone had mislaid their car keys!

ofs-colour-2017-datedOpen Farm Sunday is on the 11th June 2017. Register here to find out more and get involved and tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

About the author:

Philip runs the family farm in west Herefordshire. The farm specialises in herbage, cereal and vining pea seed production and has a herd of single suckler beef cattle. Philip’s wife Heather runs a mail order birdseed (all supplied and packed by the farm) and ancillaries business, Wiggly Wigglers together with a mail order florist, The Great British Florist, supplying UK grown flowers only, some of which are grown on the farm.

 

Open Farm Sunday – planning, preparation and perfect memories

padfieldJeremy Padfield runs the family farm close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset.  It is predominantly arable but also has a beef and equine business.  The farm is involved in lots of conservation work and has opened for eight out of the ten years since Open Farm Sunday began.  Here, Jeremy shares with us his top tips on how to plan and organise an engaging and memorable Open Farm Sunday event. 

To make your Open Farm Sunday event successful and enjoyable – the key is in the preparation.

It is important at the outset to decide how, what and where you would like your visitors to experience a great day on your farm.  Using a map that shows an aerial view of the farm and buildings is a good way to get an idea of where your visitors can park and then to organise a ‘flow’ to areas of interest and maybe areas that you would prefer to keep out of bounds.

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Decide at the outset what you would like your visitors to experience

There are so many different people that you will find are very happy to come along and help whether that is friends, family and staff through to neighbouring farmers, young farmers, vets to wildlife groups.  A good start is to make a list of all the people that could be a great help on the day.  Open Farm Sunday caters for all size of events whether that is inviting a handful of people and taking them out on a farm walk, through to a couple of hundred visitors and then even larger events again.

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Consider how many visitors you feel comfortable with

It is good to decide how many visitors you feel comfortable coming along on the day and then start asking from your list of helpers if they are free and get them to put the date in the diary.  If some cannot help on the actual day, see if they are available before the event as there is always plenty to do!  It is better to have more help than you need so that everyone can have a break on the day and see the event too!

Now that you have some help organised, have a plan of activities and an idea of prospective numbers, register your event on the OFS website if you haven’t done so already and start to look at some of the opportunities to learn more through the OFS Bitesize webinar programme.

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Engaging visitors with your farming story

There are lots of top tips on all areas of staging the event and the OFS Checklist is a good way to make sure that you are on track with the preparations.  Depending on the size of your event, promotion of your event is an important job and there are many avenues available from local village newsletter, postcards into local schools to social media.  Much of this will take place on the weeks leading up to 11th June but it is worthwhile thinking how best to promote your open day.

My top tip as you organise your event is to think about the memory that you would like your visitors to walk away with, remember and share with their family and friends – whether it’s one day, one month or even one year after the 11th June.  Planning your event so that your visitors go away with this memory is the key to success.  Enjoy your preparations and here’s to a great day in June!

Open Farm Sunday is on the 11th June 2017.  Register here to find out more and get involved and do tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event. 

LEAF Marque – driving forward more sustainable farming and stronger supply chains

ian-finlaysonAs the LEAF Marque Standard version 14.1 came into effect on 1st January 2017, Ian Finlayson, Chairman of the LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee shares his thoughts on the role of assurance systems in driving forward more sustainable farming and stronger supply chains…

Food labelling is vital to our trust in the products we buy and consume. Without robust auditing the trust in labels and our food system fails as shown by food fraud scares.  Our food systems are complex and can obscure the exact origins of our food. Understanding where our food comes from and how it has been produced underlines assurance schemes such as Red Tractor, RSCPA Assured, Organic and of course, LEAF Marque.  In essence, they provide the means to better understand our food.  To know that is has met a certain benchmark of safe and/or sustainable production. This is great for us as consumers but also for farmers as it provides recognition for their work in these areas. For LEAF Marque, it demonstrates farmers’ environmental commitments with the potential to increase farm profitability through improved management and expand market opportunities for certified product.

Why do we need assurance schemes?

Today’s consumer is more informed than previously and they want to learn more. Our digital era has played a huge part in this thirst for knowledge.  Furthermore, social media offers immediate communication between farmers, retailers and consumers and is fuelling demand for complete transparency in the authenticity of the products we consume.

john-saul-cauliflower-gnp_7341_16011511355300001Certification is key to creating more transparency.  It helps to prove the high quality of products in a credible way, making them stand out and offering public assurance that they  have been produced safely and to a certain standard of quality.  For farmers, certification enables them to show the integrity of their products and helps to secure the trust of their customers which can, in turn, push up sales.

How do we achieve transparency?

Public trust and confidence in assurance schemes is dependent on the authenticity of the schemes themselves. As standard setters and developers, our duty is to ensure our standards are robust and they deliver on the sustainability promises we make. We do this in a number of ways:

  • Good governance – our LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee overseas the ongoing development of the LEAF Marque Standard which is underpinned by LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management. It brings together experts from a diverse range of backgrounds including farmers, retailers, conservation groups, government and industry bodies. They ensure the LEAF Marque Standard continues to evolve to respond to user comments, industry developments, the rise in new technologies and consumer trends.
  • Collaborating – We are proud to be a Full Member of the ISEAL alliance which works to strengthen sustainability standards systems and encourages dialogue between all its members in order to innovate and drive the sustainability standards movement forward.  LEAF Marque has also been benchmarked to Gold Level against the SAI Platform Farmer Self Assessment with appropriate baseline systems.
  • Listening – The LEAF Marque Standard is underpinned by the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice and its credibility principles which set out the approach that is essential for standards. cp-infographic-roll-over-image_2 At the very core of these is consultation.  We regularly seek the views of our farmers and growers, members and wider stakeholders to ensure the ongoing development of the LEAF Marque Standard.

The LEAF Marque Standard – what’s new?

leafmarqueFollowing our most recent consultation process, the latest version of the LEAF Marque Standard (version 14.1) is effective from the 1st January 2017.  We have refreshed its design and layout and made a number of other changes including the addition of six new Control Points covering energy, recording habitats and Chain of Custody.  Mandatory control points are now referred to as ‘Essential’ control points rather than ‘Critical Failure Points’.   These changes and the new design and layout offers our farmers and growers increased clarity.   We have received positive feedback from our growers in support of the changes.

How will the LEAF Marque Standard have to evolve?

Farmers face huge challenges as they try to find sustainable solutions to feed the world’s growing population without depleting its natural resources. This, coupled with more volatile climate patterns, political priorities and ever-changing consumer demands, will call for innovative and joined-up solutions.  There is no question that the growth for certified, traceable, sustainable products will continue.  This provides a global opportunity for farmers.  LEAF have three key priorities over the next five years:

Improving our outreach to consumers: Whilst awareness of the LEAF Marque is growing, we still have a long way to go. We will harness the power of social media, increase the number of LEAF Marque certified farmers reaching out to the public, through for example, LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday in order to increase public understanding, recognition and demand for sustainably produced food.

Building closer links: We will strengthen our links across the food industry to work together to ensure the LEAF Marque Standard continues to evolve and drive forward improvements in sustainable farming.

ifm-wheel-words-largeIdentifying partnerships: We envisage the role of sustainable farming as one of the solutions to the world’s growing health and obesity problems will be a key area for us.  We are determined to ensure that LEAF Marque and the principles of Integrated Farm Management are at the heart of this debate.

Conclusion

Independently-verified assurance schemes have a critical role to play in the future.  They help to generate higher revenue for farmers, contribute to stronger and more stable supply chain across the entire food industry and can deliver meaningful economic, environmental and social impacts.  The key is to ensure they themselves have integrity.   There is a powerful and growing wave of momentum behind sustainable food.  We are firmly focused on strengthening LEAF Marque as the leading environmental assurance system recognising sustainably farmed products.

The LEAF Marque Standard version 14.1 is effective from the 1st January 2017 and can be viewed here.  It is available in French, Spanish and Italian here.

About the author:

Ian is Managing Director of the Practical Solutions International, an independent consultancy company specialising in sustainable, ethical and safe food production. Ian headed up the work at Sainsbury’s on pesticides for many years and was a member of the Pesticide Residue Committee (now PRiF) for 8 years. More recently has been technical director for a number of fresh produce and cut flower companies and Chair of the Fairtrade International Standards Committee.   Ian became Chairman of the LEAF Marque Technical Advisory Committee in January 2016.

Improving soil biology for better yields

keith-gouldingSoil biology plays a vital role in maintaining healthy, sustainable soils and increasing it a key part of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management.  Professor Keith Goulding, Sustainable Soils Research Fellow at Rothamsted Research, explains that providing growers with a greater depth of knowledge on the physical, chemical and biological complexity of the soil environment is key to addressing the current threats to soil sustainability.

Healthy soil is fundamental to food security, ecosystems and life.  90% of all the food we eat is grown in soil, feeding a global population that has increased to 7.3 billion people. Healthy soils provide a variety of vital ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, water regulation, flood protection, and habitats for biodiversity.

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Soil biology is essential for healthy and sustainable soils.

The conservation and improvement of soil is among the highest priorities of any farm. Routine analysis, maintenance and improvement of physical, chemical and biological soil health helps ensure soil’s long term fertility and builds organic matter, while reducing the risk of erosion, structural degradation, compaction and associated environmental concerns, such as flooding and drought. Good soil husbandry increases yields and profitability.

Soil biology is essential for healthy and sustainable soils.  Helping growers get a better understanding of the role of soil biology in key processes vital for growth of plants such as nutrient cycling (decomposition, mineralisation, immobilisation and denitrification) is vital to the way they think about, manage and protect soils.

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The conservation and improvement of soil is an essential part of Integrated Farm Management

What is soil biology? What is soil organic matter and why is it important to soil biology? How can we measure and increase it?  These are all questions that I’ll be addressing at a one day course, run in partnership with LEAF and Artis Training.  Aimed at advanced practitioners, the course will help growers get a better understanding of the factors affecting soil biology, and the role of soil organic matter in improving soil structure, aeration, water and nutrient supply.  We will also provide practical strategies to help growers measure and maintain soil organic matter, exploring sampling and tillage.

Providing growers with a greater depth of knowledge on the physical, chemical and biological complexity of the soil environment is key to addressing the current threats to soil sustainability and the protection of this precious resource.  It’s an exciting and challenging area where farmers have a central role to play.

About the author:

Professor Keith Goulding is the Sustainable Soils Research Fellow at Rothamsted Research, a LEAF Innovation Centre. He joined Rothamsted Research in 1974 and gained his PhD at Imperial College in 1980. His research has included the supply to crops of potassium and phosphorus from the soil, ion exchange, acid rain, soil acidification and liming and nutrient, especially nitrogen, cycling.

‘Improving soil biology for better yields’ is a one day course run by LEAF and Artis Training, aimed at accomplished practitioners.  It takes place on 18th January 2017 at JSR Farms Ltd, a LEAF Demonstration Farm.   The course costs £240 (inc VAT) but LEAF Members qualify for a 15% discount making the course £204 (inc VAT). For more details and to book click here

 

 

Insights, inspiration and information exchange

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Philip Huxtable, Director of Arable Production at JSR Farms and LEAF Board member, was one of seven LEAF Demonstration Farmers who took part in the Environment Agency’s pilot Agricultural Placement Scheme earlier this year.  Here, Philip shares with us his thoughts on the scheme and its wider role in relationship building…

 

Information Flow
Knowledge generation and exchange is a key part of being a LEAF Demonstration Farmer.  It’s essential to keep things fresh and moving forward, to ensure a constant flow of experience, skills and information. This is exactly why I was keen to take part in the pilot scheme run by the Environment Agency offering agricultural placements for their officers.  A great opportunity to share what we are doing here, as well as to strengthen our working relationship with the Agency.

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IFM in practice

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Helen Dale, Environment Officer

IFM in practice
Our EA officer was Helen Dale, an experienced Environment Officer based in Lincolnshire who joined us in February and March.  The first visit was very much office based, focusing on the theory behind what we are doing here, how we plan and document our farming operations – covering nutrient management and applications as well as our traceability systems.  In March, it was all about getting out on the farm to see it all happening in practice.   Helen shadowed our slurry spreading team and spray operators, saw grass strips being drilled, potatoes being graded and joined our ploughing and fertiliser spreading guys so she could get to grips with precision farming and satellite navigation.   A very varied few days which gave her a great overview of the whole business and how we are implementing Integrated Farm Management (IFM).

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LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management

Insights, inspiration and information exchange
As farmers, it is absolutely critical that we are open to new ideas, share our experience and knowledge and keep an eye to the future.  The scheme gets a definite ‘thumbs up’ from JSR.  We were delighted with the way Helen interacted with staff, her enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge. Having the right calibre of placement is essential for staff to feel comfortable and ‘open up’.

The insights and practical knowledge that Helen picked up from her time with us, can only have had a positive impact on the support and advice she offers to other farmers in the future.

In addition, the scheme provided us, as a business, with a hugely valuable vehicle to build on our relationship with the EA.  The more we can do to enhance this partnership and to demonstrate the professionalism of our business, the better. I have always viewed the Agency as an additional resource on which to draw upon – working together with them and not against them.  It’s a bit like your bank balance – the more you can put in, the more resources and good will there is to draw upon when you need it!

The Environment Agency’s Agricultural Placement Scheme will run again in 2017. 

Sharing, shadowing and satisfaction through the EA’s Agriculture Placement Scheme

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Robert Iles, Senior Environment Officer (Agriculture)

Earlier this year, seven LEAF Demonstration Farmers took part in the Environment Agency’s Agriculture Placement Scheme.  The pilot scheme enabled EA officers to shadow farmers and learn how their businesses work in order to increase their technical and practical farm business understanding.   The trial worked well with great feedback from the Environment Agency and LEAF Demonstration farmers.  Here, Robert Iles, Senior Environment Officer (Agriculture) at the EA, shares with us his time at High Meadow Farm, Shropshire…

I arrived at High Meadow Farm, nestled in a beautiful valley just a stones through from Ludlow in Shropshire, full of anticipation and not really knowing what to expect.  Nick greeted me with warmth and humour and we immediately set off for a tour of the farm. From the yard I could see a majority of the farm down in the valley bordered by a wooded valley side opposite. A spectacular landscape leaving me excited by the challenges that lay ahead.

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High Meadow Farm in Shropshire – one of the seven LEAF Demonstration Farms taking part in the Environment Agency’s Agriculture Placement Scheme

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Clearing brush on Ledwyche Brook

I got to work straight away cleaning plastic wrap and feed bags from the cattle yard, checking hedges and cleaning an old shed which was to be used as my rest room. The majority of my week with Nick was divided between the Ledwyche Brook – a steep sided tributary of the River Teme which was constantly carving its own sandy banks or in the valley below the farm. Tasks included clearing the brush from 60 bankside trees which Nick had chainsawed and from a log jam in the Brook and putting in 400 fence posts around newly planted fruit trees (a project Nick had initiated to reinstate a historic orchard). All hard, physical non-stop work, which was hugely rewarding and it was great to see I was making a real contribution.

The work was hugely varied with a trip on the sprayer, filling and washing the old cans in the induction hopper, a meeting with the local water company to apply for a grant, a trip to buy some oak trees to screen the new chicken sheds, and homework each night with the Ranger magazine report on implications of Brexit for egg producers. Nick had instigated a new business for 38,000 free range chickens and work was all go with daily deliveries, problems to solve and site checks to get the buildings complete before the chicks arrived.

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LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management

There was never a dull moment but there was enough time to appreciate my wonderful surroundings and the effort being put in by Nick and his family to run a profitable farm using the principles of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management. Each night I went to bed tired from the activities of the day but with a huge sense of satisfaction in what I had contributed to.

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Replanting and replacing tree guards on black thorn whips

The most memorable moments came when I was asked to replant and replace the tree guards of several 100 meters of black thorn whips. The weather was warm and as I worked the valley was a riot of noisy field fares, robins and wrens singing as they combed the fields for dropped seeds or hopped through the hedgerows of this ancient landscape. But even more satisfying was the group effort of escorting a cow from the barn to the crush. While I held up her tail, Nick and his farm worker dealt with her ingrown toe and foot ulcer. She kicked and grunted but afterwards trotted back to the barn clearly a much happier cow.

I left High Meadow Farm (and Shropshire) reluctantly. Farming seems an ideal lifestyle but requiring considerable energy and constant movement mixed with considerable worry. The activities had been worthwhile and satisfying and the tremendous effort being made to maintain the environment for the future was clear to see. Reflecting on my experience now that I am back in my Environment Agency role, I certainly have a renewed respect for farmers who are true multi-taskers but I also now know a bit more about what we as an organisation can expect from these custodians of the land.

Coming soon! LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Philip Huxtable from JSR Farms Ltd, will be writing a blog about his experience of the EA Agriculture Placement Scheme from a farmer’s perspective.

 

Not buffed, but buffered

Cedric PorterCedric Porter, LEAF Trustee and Supply Chain expert, embarked on a weight  loss challenge to support LEAF’s 25th anniversary theme ‘delivering healthy food and farming fit for the future’.  Cedric updates us on progress to-date…

I’ve hit a bit of a buffer in my quest to lose 25lbs in LEAF’s 25 years. I’ve held my weight at around the 15 stone or 210lb mark that I last reported but haven’t made much progress in losing the next 15lbs I need to lose to reach my target.

I’m still walking my 10,000 steps a day and adding in an occasional run too, but I fear that I’ve got to a stage that I’m still eating too much and what I’m doing is not burning off enough of the calories that I’m consuming. To me there seem to be two options, one is to cut out the naughties in all meals, but I’m one of those people who does enjoy my food and the prospect of cutting out the sugar, cream and occasional fried potato product from my diet does not fill me with any joy.

PeasSo the I think I’ll try the other option – the 5 2 Fast diet where for 70% of the week I can eat almost what I want, leaving me to consume a Monastic 600 calories on the remaining two days of the week. On those two days I can still have the odd portion of yoghurt, plenty of fruit and veg and I’m quite looking forward to a lunch of crushed peas, shoots and new potatoes (minus the butter, of course, but with eggs). The picture is taken from http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/ my version will not be quite so impressive, I’m sure, but I’ll take a photo of it and it will contain lots of LEAF ingredients.

A diet conundrum

chart 1My new-found interest in weighty matters, has led me to look at food intake in the UK. Given the headlines and concerns over obesity, you would think that we are eating more food than ever. But figures from Defra tell a different story. For the last 70 years Defra and its Min of Ag predecessor have been monitoring food consumption through a large scale survey of ‘typical’ consumers. This shows that in the last 20 years the average calorie intake per person has dropped by a whopping 14%.

But other figures from Public Health England show at the same time, the levels of obesity have continued to rise. So 20 years ago around 14% of the male population were obese, now the figure is 25%, a rise of 79%. Similarly the level of female obesity has increased from 17% to 25%, an increase of 47%

chart2So what is behind this apparent conundrum, that while we have reduced our calorie intake as a nation we have got fatter?

There has to be an element of physical activity in the equation. The last 20 years has seen a continuation of a long-term trend away from manual work. From mining to engineering to much of farm work, automation has replaced hard physical labour. That means fewer calories are burnt. Figures from the www.thefastdiet.co.uk website show that a 40 year old 14 and a half stone man burns off 3550 calories a day doing heavy exercise or a physical job, but the same person who does a non-physical job with little or no exercise burns off just 2250 calories.

The type of food that we are eating may also play a factor. As well as eating more sugar, we are eating more processed food. One theory is that what this processing does is part digest food allowing energy to be taken in more readily by the body and converted into fat if not burnt. As one who is struggling to get the pounds off, it is a theory that should be looked into a little more closely.

If you would like to support my cause for LEAF’s 25th anniversary, please donate to my JustGiving page or you can text the amount you wish to give and ‘LEAF16’ to 70071.

Continuing LEAF’s 25th anniversary theme ‘delivering healthy food and farming fit for the future’, LEAF is organising a sponsored bike ride – click here to sign up and keep up to date with all our 25th anniversary news and events here.

Delivering more sustainable farming through knowledge generation and exchange

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Alice Midmer, LEAF IFM Manager

Alice Midmer, LEAF’s IFM Manager recently returned from Scotland, where we held our 25th anniversary Scotland dinner for members and supporters and ran a Farmer Technical Day in partnership with The James Hutton Institute.   Here, Alice reflects on the events and shares her highlights.  

LEAF has a strong and vibrant presence in Scotland with four Demonstration Farms, two Innovation Centres and many LEAF Members. We are very proud of the partnerships we have developed and are determined to build on our activities across the border to strengthen LEAF’s reach, increase awareness and uptake of Integrated Farm Management as well champion public understanding and engagement in sustainable farming.

It was a privilege to meet with Scottish Demonstration Farmers and supporters at our 25th anniversary dinner which we held prior to the Farmer Technical Event.  It was a great opportunity to meet socially with so many supporters across the region, share experiences and map out priorities for LEAF’s next 25 years.  Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, which was LEAF’s first Innovation Centre, gave an engaging overview of the role of JHI in pushing forward the boundaries of sustainable farming, their commitment to ensuring cutting edge research reaches out to farmers and how their role as a LEAF Innovation Centre plays a central role in making this happen.  This led on to a lively discussion about what sustainable farming means in practice, the challenges facing farmers and the potential of Integrated Farm Management to address them.  It was a great evening full of laughter, friendship and lots of ideas on how we can build on our work in Scotland.

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IFM in practice at our Technical Day for Farmers held in partnership with LEAF Innovation Centre, the James Hutton Institute

The sun shone brightly the next day for our Farmer Technical Day at JHI, where we were joined by SRUC and SoilEssentials who work closely with JHI on a range of research projects and wider work .  The day had a very practical focus with guided tours providing farmers with a great opportunity to talk directly to researchers at each stop.  The day covered a broad range of topics from cover crops, Integrated Pest Management, Precision Farming, Eco-engineering through to improving phosphorus use and whole-system models and decision aids.  One of the stops on the tour was run by LEAF Members, SoilEssentials who talked about how precision farming data can be used to lower environmental impact and increase profits.  It was also interesting to hear Ewen Mullins, from Teagasc, the Irish Agricultural and Food Development Authority talk about the environmental impact of GM blight-tolerant potatoes.  Other highlights were LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Edward Baxter providing a fascinating overview of his PhD field headland research and JHI’s Farms Director, Euan Caldwell explaining about his wonderful Magic Margins.

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Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive and Euan Caldwell, Head of Farms, James Hutton Institute show IFM in action at Farmer Technical Day

As LEAF embarks on its next 25 years, we are excited about the potential to grow our activities in Scotland. Our new five-year strategy looks to identify partnerships with the food, farming, environment, health and education sectors to drive forward our mission of ‘a world that is farming, eating and living sustainably.’

Knowledge generation and exchange is at the heart of IFM.  It is events like this that bring farmers and researchers together to inspire and learn from each other that will progress the development and uptake of more sustainable farming.   Our thanks to everyone who was involved in the day.

Stepping up the action

CedricCedric Porter, LEAF Trustee and Supply Chain expert, embarked on a weight  loss challenge to support LEAF’s 25th anniversary theme ‘delivering healthy food and farming fit for the future’.  Cedric updates us on progress so far…

There has certainly been progress since I started my lose 25lbs for LEAF’s 25th anniversary, as part of the promotion of healthy food and farming – fit for the future.  At the beginning of the challenge I weighed 220lbs with a target weight of 195lbs. I’m now down to 15 stone or 210lbs so I’m 40% there – yippee!!

Most of the loss seems to have come from exercise as I’m sticking to my target of walking at least 10,000 steps a day – so far the record is more than 23,000 steps on a day walking along the coastline at Winchelsea and Rye. Walking is great as it allows you to see what you normally miss, but I do feel a little self-conscious pacing the streets late at night as I try and do the last few hundred steps before my phone rings up the 10,000 mark.

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Eating sustainably is getting easier – some 33% of UK grown fruit and vegetables is produced on LEAF Marque certified businesses

Although I need to step up the steps and even dust down the trainers and move from walking to running, I know my attention needs to shift to what I eat.  So far my strategy has been to try and hold back, sometimes with limited success, but the calorie counting needs to begin in earnest. Exercising and eating in moderation is important but it is also about consuming the right food and this is where LEAF Marque really comes in. Fresh fruit, vegetables and meat produced sustainably with care for the environment, what could be better?

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The basic rule of weight loss: cutting down on processed sugar combined with exercise

Losing weight is in fashion, but with attention comes confusion. This included the National Obesity Forum’s criticism of the national obesity control strategy, which was then disowned by some of the forum’s own members. The danger is that the confusion turns people off controlling their weight as they try and take in the latest piece of advice. It’s one thing losing the weight, but one of the hardest parts will be keeping it off.

For me, the official advice based on the Eatwell Plate seems the best and cutting down on processed sugar in particular seems very sensible. I am also trying to eat as much LEAF Marque produce as possible which is becoming increasingly easier with some 33% of UK produced fruit and vegetables coming from LEAF Marque certified businessesIf anyone has any weight-loss tips that have worked for them, they are gratefully received.

If you would like to support my cause for LEAF’s 25th anniversary, please donate to my JustGiving page or you can text the amount you wish to give and ‘LEAF16’ to 70071.

Continuing LEAF’s 25th anniversary theme ‘delivering healthy food and farming fit for the future’, LEAF is organising a sponsored bike ride – click here to sign up and keep up to date with all our 25th anniversary news and events here