Bottoms-Up: Innovative Farmers and Speak Out


Alice Midmer, LEAF Projects Coordinator

Promoting and enabling farmers that are Innovative and Communicative are two big details that form part of LEAF’s ‘bottom-up’ approach to delivering more sustainable farming.  LEAF’s Projects Coordinator, Alice Midmer explains more …  

If you have heard Caroline Drummond speak you may well have a) seen the photo below (it’s her favourite) and b) will hopefully remember it as a visual representation that, here at LEAF, we love a bottom-up approach! But what does this really mean?

Bottoms up

LEAF’s ‘bottoms up’ approach to delivering sustainable farming

In theory, and according to all-knowing Google, the definition of a bottom-up approach is as follows: ‘The bottom-up of an approach to a problem is one that begins with details and works up to the highest conceptual level.’

If we take ‘more sustainable farming’ as our ‘highest conceptual level’ then two of the most recent projects I have been working on are fantastic examples of ‘the details’.

The first is our involvement with Innovative Farmers. We are really pleased to be partners in the new and exciting Innovative Farmers programme. Many of the best ideas come from farmers who trial, test and analyse on their own farms. We know that LEAF farmers are often at the very cutting edge of this technical development and we are keen that these results are captured and harnessed to enable others to benefit and the industry as a whole to move forward.

Innovative Farmers is a not-for-profit network that matches farmer groups with some of the UK’s best research teams. It provides professional support, a web portal where groups share their learning, and access to a dedicated research fund. At the heart of the network are ‘field labs’, where farmers meet in small groups to test and develop new ways of tackling a shared problem or opportunity. Until 15th December, there is an early bird discount to join and following this, all LEAF members will continue to receive a discounted membership. Click here to register as a LEAF member.

Innovative FarmersInnovative Farmers is an exciting network and a great opportunity to join-up and optimise the output from research happening all over the country. Farmer led research and learning is not new however, and has been at the heart of LEAF since its inception, through the LEAF Demonstration Farm network. As well as innovation and Integrated Farm Management, good communication skills are crucial to the LEAF Demonstration Farm network. In this vein, LEAF developed the Speak Out communications training package a number of years ago to help develop and enhance farmers’ communication skills.

This autumn, Speak Out was back. The sessions saw both new and established LEAF Demonstration Farmers gather in the sunny cart shed at LEAF Demonstration Farm, Crowmarsh Battle Farms for a refresher training day with the ever enthusiastic Susie Emmett of Green Shoots Productions Ltd.

Good communication is imperative and innovative farmers need to have all the tools in the box to spread their messages to other farmers, the industry and consumers alike.

Speak Out

LEAF’s Speak Out training: developing and enhancing farmers communication skills

Farmers and representatives from nine different LEAF Demonstration Farms took part in a fantastic day that ranged from ‘planning a presentation that packs a punch’ to ‘movie making with messages that matter’. ‘Making the most of your online presence’, ‘harnessing the power of social media’ and ‘taking farm visits to the next level’ were also covered in a jam packed day.

Attendees included established LEAF Demonstration Farmers, keen to refresh their skills, pick up tips from other farmers as well as learn more about newer and increasingly important avenues of communication. Newer recruits at larger LEAF Demonstration Farms also attended to develop skills to help them better communicate their farm’s message to the wider community.

All appreciated the importance of staying engaged and up-to date with different communication methods and how and why to make best use of them. From my point of view, any opportunity of getting LEAF Demonstration Farmers together always makes for an inspiring day and this was no exception.

With this in mind, part of LEAF’s contribution to the Innovative Farmers programme will be Speak Out training. The partners recognise that effective communication from the coordinators and researchers will be an important component of the success of Innovative Farmers. Ready communication from the farmers involved along with a willingness to share challenges and problems will ensure the programme contributes to the progress of the industry as a whole.

So there you have it: Promoting and enabling farmers that are Innovative and Communicative are two big details that form part of LEAF’s bottom-up approach to delivering more sustainable farming.


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