Category Archives: Field to Fork

Food is fundamental to life, but food is not just food and is more than just the contents of your fridge. Despite food being so important, people have lost touch with how it’s produced. LEAF aims to reconnect people with their food, from field to fork, with farm visits, Let Nature Feed Your Senses and the LEAF Marque.

Farming: Public Health Benefits

In this post, LEAF Chairman, Stephen Fell, shares his views on farming and public health following a recent Green City Conference.

Part of my own farming business is growing turf, wildflower turf and vegetation mats for green roofs. I have long had an interest in greening urban spaces and have developed a range of products to make that possible. We as farmers who take green space for granted, perhaps forget that over 90% of our population live in urban areas and don’t have ready access to healthy places.

I recently attended a Green City Conference where delegates from around the world debated the benefits of urban green spaces and the issues surrounding the implementation of green infrastructure plans.

What was really interesting was the synergy of thought between what we do in LEAF, in particular through the Let Nature Feed Your Senses programme, and those in the medical and landscape professions speaking at the conference.

Broughton Grounds Farm - Aylesbury College June 2010

A Let Nature Feed Your Senses project visit at Broughton Grounds Farm

Sir Richard Thompson, physician to HM the Queen, concentrated on the health benefits of green spaces. Green gardens in hospitals improve the mood of patients and staff alike “There is a gym outside your window!”. He went through much of the well documented evidence that recovery times are faster and that physical and mental well being is significantly enhanced by access to green, living landscapes. There are huge savings to be made to the NHS budget and architects and builders of hospitals must be made aware of the green benefits. This chimed absolutely with the paper given at LEAF’s recent President’s Event by Gregor Henderson, Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England.

The Landscape Institute represents professional landscape architects. Dr Val Kirby produced their outstanding document ‘Public Health and Landscape‘. It is well worth reading, remembering that we as farmers are landscape architects on a grand scale. The Institute believes that much greater priority needs to be given to prevention of ill health in public and social care. Their challenge was to answer the question: can landscape help create healthy places?

Dr Kirby’s report has an evidence based approach to 5 principles of healthy places. In outlining some of them you will start to see the synergies I mentioned earlier:

Healthy places…

  1. Improve air, water and soil quality, incorporating measures that help us adapt to, and where possible mitigate, climate change.
  2. Help overcome health inequalities and can promote healthy lifestyles
  3. Make people feel comfortable and at ease, increasing social interaction and reducing anti-social behaviour, isolation and stress
  4. Optimise opportunities for working, learning and development
  5. Are restorative, uplifting and healing for both physical and mental health conditions

See what I mean? Integrated Farm Management and Let Nature Feed Your Senses. Town and Country, City and Farmland. Our urban cousins are realising what we have long known – that being out in a green landscape is good for you. It’s much more challenging to create and maintain that green space in the middle of a city, but we as the large scale ‘landscape architects’ have a wonderful opportunity to improve the health of the nation.

By opening our farms, encouraging disadvantaged or convalescing people to experience, see, feel and smell what we can take for granted is a precious gift – perhaps we should all think more about the links between public health and landscape.

stephen-fellStephen Fell is LEAF’s Chairman and Managing Director of the family farming business HR Fell and Sons Ltd, running a flock of 1000 sheep and growing root crops at Thorganby in the Vale of York. He is also Managing Director of Lindum Turf, a business growing and marketing a range of turf and specialist grass and wildflower products.

A Showcase for Sustainable Farming – Overbury Farms

Caroline Drummond, Jake Freestone and Penelope Bossom

Caroline Drummond, Jake Freestone and Penelope Bossom

Long standing LEAF members, Overbury Farms, have become the latest farm to be launched as a LEAF Demonstration Farm.

Many of you will be forgiven to think that Overbury Farms are already a LEAF Demonstration Farm! They have taken a very active involvement in all our activities since they joined us in 2003 – they were one of the first farms to sign up for our very first Open Farm Sunday back in 2006 and have achieved LEAF Marque certification on all their lamb. Farm Manager, Jake Freestone is an avid tweeter and blogger and can often be heard expounding on the benefits of LEAF membership!

Overbury Farms, set within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the historic slopes of Bredon Hill on the Worcestershire/Gloucestershire border, was formally launched as a LEAF Demonstration Farm last week by local farmer Mark Tufnell from Calmsden Farms. Along with our 40 other Demonstration Farms, Overbury will play an important role in promoting the sustainable farming principles of Integrated Farm Management.

They will host visits to farmers, community groups, conservation organisations and local schools, to show how they are combining commercial farming with the highest standards of agricultural best practice and environmental care.

Jake Freestone, Penelope Bossom, Mark Tufnell and Caroline Drummond

Jake Freestone, Penelope Bossom, Mark Tufnell and Caroline Drummond

Speaking at the launch, Jake said he was delighted at achieving this recognition, “Overbury has a long tradition of farming with nature. Following the sustainable farming principles of Integrated Farm Management, we are able to strike the right balance between commercial farming, environmental sensitivity and linking with our local community. We want other farmers to be inspired by what we are doing and to help the public get a better understanding of how their food is produced as well as how their countryside and its wildlife are cared for. We look forward to reaching out to diverse groups and showing them what we are trying to achieve here at Overbury Farms.”

If you would like to visit any of LEAF’s Demonstration Farms, take a look here. You can see photos from the launch on our flickr page and on facebook.

Calling all wildlife-friendly farmers – stand up and be counted for doing your bit

Last year, LEAF members Somerset and Carolyne Charrington were announced winners of the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Awards. LEAF members also came out on top in the regional finals, including our Vice Chairman, Rob Kynaston winning in Shropshire. Kathryn Smith from the RSPB, tells us why and how you can enter this year!

Kathryn Smith is an Agriculture Project Manager with the RSPB, supporting the delivery of free, practical advice and support to farmers across the UK who are stepping up and do their bit for wildlife. The Nature of Farming Award forms just a small part of that – find out more about what’s on offer at

Calling all wildlife-friendly farmers – stand up and be counted for doing your bit

The RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award is the UK’s biggest farm wildlife competition, and a brilliant way to spread the word about the vital work that many farmers are doing for nature. Have you entered the 2012 competition yet? If not, visit our website to download an entry form. But hurry – entry closes on Friday 20 April. If you’re doing your bit for wildlife on your farm, we don’t want you to miss out on your chance for all your hard work to be recognised. Not only is it a great opportunity to showcase the very best of wildlife-friendly farming across the UK to the general public, but you could also win £1,000! Watch our video to hear more about the award from last year’s UK champions, and read profiles of last year’s regional winners and finalists here.

Last year we also introduced a Highly Commended category which means we now get to publicly recognise even more farmers, so why not give it a go?
Each year we ask the public to show support for UK wildlife-friendly farmers by voting for the overall winner. Last year the Award was featured in the national and farming press, national radio, TV, and was tweeted and blogged about by celebrities such as wildlife film maker and presenter, Gordon Buchanan. It gives great farmers a great profile in the mainstream media. The result was 22,000 people taking an interest and voting in 2011, and we’re aiming for even more in 2012.

Could they be voting for you?

Come and be inspired at the Let Nature Feed Your Senses National Conference on Tuesday 6th September

The Let Nature Feed Your Senses project organises free sensory rich farm visits for people who do not have the opportunity to visit the countryside, because of age, disability or social circumstance. Visits aim to encourage a lifelong love of nature through food and farming. Discovery bags, activity books and audio clips encourage visitors to continue connecting to the natural world when they return home.

Whether you’re a farmer and are looking for engaging new activity ideas or want to know more about how your user groups might benefit from connecting with nature through a sensory rich farm visit, then come along and be inspired at the second Let Nature Feed Your Senses National Conference on Tuesday 6th September at Reaseheath College, Cheshire.

Key note speakers will be Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks who will share ideas to awaken a sense of wonder and enjoyment in the natural world. Jo and Fiona have authored the Going Wild series of books, which are full of practical ideas to make it easier for families, schools, play leaders and children to get outdoors and have fun. Other speakers are Sue Padfield, South West regional project co-ordinator, who has developed a sensory rich memory box to help elderly people reminisce during visits. Paul Barnes, a Lancashire host farmer who also works for Voyage Care, will discuss the current policy environment and the implications of personal care budgets for host farmers. Other host farmers will discuss the distinctiveness of project visits and key lessons learnt so far.

Jo and Fiona will also lead a workshop to find creative approaches to linking nature, food and farming by working with natural materials found on farm, such as clay, chalk, eggs, feathers, berries, wool, and straw. Engaging taste during a visit can sometimes be challenging, so two hands-on cookery workshops on foraging and seasonal pancakes lead by Cracking Good Food Manchester, will offer some practical ideas to get visitors taste buds tingling! More details are available on the project website.

Places are limited, so to book your place, please e-mail Carol at the LEAF office, or call 02476 413911.

New Website Launches – Visit My Farm!

Farmers looking to open their farms for educational visits, now have all the information they need in one place, thanks to a new website developed by LEAF in partnership with FACE (Farming And Countryside Education) and Natural England. The website, is a unique one stop shop, providing a wealth of information, resources and ideas to help farmers  get geared up for hosting  fun and engaging farm visits. Continue reading

Trends in Sustainable Food: 28% honestly disengaged

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A few weeks ago, Defra released their latest research on attitudes to sustainable food (full report). They found that people want to buy healthy and local food.

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10,000 Farmers Wanted, No Experience Necessary

The National Trust is starting an innovative farming experiment, inviting 10,000 people to become ‘virtual farmers’ and get involved in the day to day running and key decisions at one of the Trust’s working farms at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire.

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Lambing Live: Good for the industry or just good entertainment?

This was the question that we posed on twitter before the first airing of it’s second series on Monday, and these were the responses: Continue reading