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. 

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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

LEAF Marque Standard Public Consultation – helping deliver robust, transparent and resilient supply chains

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Anthony Goggin, LEAF’s Certification and Assurance Manager

LEAF members and stakeholders are being invited to take part in a public consultation of the LEAF Marque Standard. Anthony Goggin, LEAF’s Certification and Assurance Manager, sets out why engagement in the consultation process is so critical to help drive forward more sustainable food and farming. 

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The principles of IFM underpin the LEAF Marque Standard

LEAF Marque is an environmental assurance system recognising sustainably farmed products.  It offers farmers public recognition that products have been grown sustainably with care for the environment, following LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management (IFM).  Ensuring the LEAF Marque standard continues to evolve in order to meet the world’s ever changing sustainability challenges is absolutely critical.   A fundamental part of this is reaching out to our members and wider stakeholders to seek their views on how the LEAF Marque standard evolves, its priorities and future direction. Fundamentally, this ensures the LEAF Marque standard remains robust, practical and critically, contributes to LEAF’s vision of a world that is farming, eating and living sustainably.

Evolution and Innovation

ISEAL Cred Principles

ISEAL’s Credibility Principles represent the core values upon which effective sustainability standards are built

The world’s sustainability challenges are ever growing.  The LEAF Marque standard must continue to evolve and innovate in order to effectively address these ever changing social, political and environmental issues.  As a full member of ISEAL, we work within the framework of their Impacts Code of Good Practice and are committed to their ten Credibility Principles which represent the core values upon which effective sustainability standards are built.

Similarly, being part of a global membership association for sustainability standards helps drive forward our monitoring and evaluation objectives, so we can demonstrate what impact LEAF Marque certified businesses are making to the delivery of more sustainable farming.  Our latest global impacts report highlights some really encouraging progress.

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LEAF Marque certified businesses across the globe delivering more sustainable food and farming

It’s all about engagement

We want the LEAF Marque standard to have maximum impact to delivering more sustainable food and farming.  It will only do this if it responds effectively to the needs of farmers, the wider food chain and the needs of consumers.  This public consultation provides our members, stakeholders and anyone with an interest in sustainable farming, with an opportunity to shape the future direction of the LEAF Marque Standard.  Providing meaningful opportunities for everyone to engage and contribute to its continual improvement, will help to drive forward lasting change to address serious global challenges.

Get involved in the current LEAF Marque Standard public consultation here, which runs until the 8th July 2016.   We look forward to hearing from you.

Magic Margins

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Euan Caldwell, Head of Farms, James Hutton Institute

Next week we will be holding a Technical Day for farmers in partnership with one of our leading Scottish LEAF Innovation Centres, The James Hutton Institute. The event includes guided tours and indoor displays covering a diverse range of Integrated Farm Management topics such as cover crops, Integrated Pest Management, precision farming and sustainable cropping.  Ahead of the event, Euan Caldwell, Head of Farms at JHI, tells us more about one of the areas being featured – ‘magic margins.’

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The Magic of Margins

Over the last year, we have been busy sowing some new field margins at Mylnefield and Balruddery Farms. Like our existing buffer strips (habitat margins next to water courses), beetle banks and field margins, these new field margins are part of what are now termed Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). All arable farms in Scotland have to commit at least 5% of their total arable area to EFA. Like many LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Innovation Centres and  Demonstration Farms, we only had to make small adjustments to the habitat and wildlife corridors we had already created around our farms, to meet our new obligations.

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Blair McKenzie’s Tramline Run-off Experiment

Some of our field margins have been established in what could look like potato drills. These are innovative field margins described by some of our visiting farmers as ‘magic margins’. The initial inspiration for developing our ‘magic margins’ came about through our involvement in Blair McKenzie’s Tramline Run-off Experiment which the James Hutton Institute and others undertook in 2011-12 at Balruddery Farm.

It was an amazing project that opened my eyes to how a relatively shallow slope could generate significant water run-off (and nutrient loss) and to see how fragile and susceptible to erosion our sandy loam soils really were.

Well established Magic Margins

IFM

LEAF’s IFM – working to deliver more sustainable food and farming

We have used the same drills and tied ridges to effectively create a barrier at the bottom of a sloping field. There is also no reason that this same effective field margin couldn’t be used as a beetle bank mid-way down a field and again at the bottom to further reduce the momentum of run-off and erosion. The mini dams the Tied Ridger has created have captured the water at the point at which it has reached the margin, thereby preventing it from running to the bottom of the slope and then pooling at the single lowest point in the field. Once properly established, they look like every other EFA field margins but with hidden added value.

JHI blog 2

Magic Margins are an innovative example of IFM working in practice

Other advantages we have seen is that the surface area of this field margin is greater than conventional field margins which helps promote the rate of evaporation. The margins have also been sown with wild grass and bird seed mixes providing valuable wildlife habitat (as part of our Ecological Focus Area). They also help persuade our farm and science staff that driving on our field margins would be a very unforgiving mistake and, in turn, this helps me protect our year round obligation to our Ecological Focus Areas.

In summary, our Magic Margins are an innovative example of IFM working in practice helping to deliver economic, environmental and social benefits to the farm.

The JHI and LEAF Technical Day on the 9th June is being held as part of LEAF’s 25th Anniversary.  It will provide a taster of some of the IFM research being carried out at JHI and feature a range of practical examples of how they can work on farmer’s own businesses. Click here for more details and to book. To join in the conversation before, during and after the event @JamesHuttonInst #LEAFTechDay. We look forward to seeing you!