Tag Archives: farming

Simply Sustainable Water

Water management is a global issue; however, the solutions must happen locally. The challenge and opportunity for farmers is how to produce more food, using less water, whilst protecting its quality. In the UK we have historically taken water, and its availability, for granted, but the last five years of extreme weather patterns has started to make us increasingly more aware of the challenges and importance of its management.

On farm, water is one of the most important natural resources, whether sourced from rain, rivers or aquifers, too much or too little can cause major challenges. Sudden rainfall events can lead to loss of nutrients and crop protection products and loss of timeliness of operations, while in severe droughts, farmers can struggle to keep livestock and crops alive. Increasingly, farmers will need to adapt to the ‘yo-yo’ effect of drought and flooding, however, putting effective long term risk management strategies into practice can be challenging.

SSWToday, we are delighted to be launching ‘Simply Sustainable Water’ in association with ASDA and Molson Coors Brewing Company. Demonstrating our joint commitment to raising awareness and opportunities for the best of water management and protection.

Measuring progress and delivering change is at the heart of LEAF’s work through the adoption of Integrated Farm Management and this booklet will help you do just that. If you make only one change on your land this year as a farmer, then make this your first step.

‘Simply Sustainable Water’ is available to download free of charge here and you can see a video showing the booklet in practice at Overbury Farms below.

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.



LEAF’s President’s Event 2012: The Changing Faces of Sustainability

Our President’s Event last week at HSBC Tower, Canary Wharf, London, presented a line up of brilliant speakers from across the food and farming industry.  The theme of the day was ‘The Changing Faces of Sustainability’ – all part of our 21st birthday celebrations.

LEAF President, Baroness Byford, addresses our guests at LEAF’s President’s Event 2012

Allan Wilkinson, HSBC’s Head of Agriculture, welcomed us and set up the day brilliantly with his kind words of support, “I hope you enjoy the day –I’m proud to be associated with LEAF”.  LEAF Chairman, Stephen Fell, followed with a short talk on the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Keynote speaker Charles Godfray, Hope Professor, University of Oxford, then gave his talk on how we can produce more food, balance human health and the environment and ensure efficiency and equity. Key to his talk was the concept of sustainable intensification, however, Professor Godfray was keen to point out that we need action on all fronts. There will be a full length video of Professor Godfray’s talk available on our YouTube channel shortly – please subscribe for updates.

Charles Godfray, Oxford University

Keynote speaker, Professor Charles Godfray

David Pendlington, Sustainable Sourcing Director at Unilever, followed with his talk on why Unilever are working with LEAF and the opportunities the partnership offers farmers and consumers. Baroness Byford then chaired a short question and answer session with Professor Godfray and David, where questions focused around sustainable intensification, market forces and consumer communications.

Following a short coffee break, Dr David Barling, City University, gave an insight into choice editing and recognition of sustainability amongst the consuming public.  LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Andrew Nottage from Russell Smith Farms, then spoke about his relationship with LEAF, how he farms and his own vision for the future.  Our Chief Executive, Caroline Drummond MBE, then set out LEAF’s highlights over the last 21 years and outlined our future.

After a fantastic LEAF Marque lunch, we brought together LEAF’s founding Chairman, David Richardson, our first LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Robert Lawton and Lord Deben, who was Minister of Agriculture at the time LEAF was formed. They were joined by our current Chairman, Stephen Fell and  new LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Chris Newenham. Tom Heap hosted the discussion, which featured a fascinating  insight into where LEAF came from and where it should be heading.

We would like to say a huge thank you to our fantastic host and President, Baroness Byford, to HSBC for the hospitality and thank everyone who spoke and attended the event. For those of you who couldn’t make it, we will be releasing some videos from the event over the coming weeks (subscribe to our YouTube channel to be updated), and you can catch up with some of the photos from the day in the gallery on flickr.

You can also read all the tweets from the day (#LPE12) here.

[Update 26/11/2012] We now have an event highlight video showcasing some of the thoughts of the speakers and guests.

LEAF Marque at the Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford

Photo: Courtesy Natural England

Huw Rowlands farms at Grange Farm, Mickle Trafford. Here he tells us of his journey to becoming LEAF Marque certified and how it has affected the way he farms now.

Here at The Grange Farm in Mickle Trafford we run Red Poll cattle as a single suckler herd, producing top quality beef which we wholesale to local pubs and restaurants and to Williamsons Butchers in Waterloo, Liverpool, and retail from the farm and at various farmers markets.  It’s a far cry from eight years ago when the farm was losing money on milk and was home to a herd of Friesian cattle.  The farm is in both Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship with Educational Access, and we host around sixty visits a year including taking part in Open Farm Sunday and Heritage Open Days, and are heavily involved with the Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Gowy Connect Project.  We grow small areas of low input spring barley, game cover crop and pollen and nectar mix as part of our Stewardship Scheme, and have ten hectares of poplar plantations for commercial use.  Perhaps the main change has been the philosophy of how we farm.  Rather than working against the land, we now work with it.

Pollen and Nectar Mix

In 2009 we stopped using manufactured fertilisers, partly because of cost, but mainly because we had discovered that our soils were degraded, and this was contributing to major problems with the health of our Red Poll herd.  We now use a small amount of treated sewage cake and a vast quantity of green compost from Waste Recycling Group at the nearby Gowy Landfill Site.  Being fairly extensive, the next logical step was to consider becoming fully organic, but we were prevented from doing so by two factors.  One was the use of sewage cake, and the other was that we would have had to send cattle for slaughter at an organically accredited abattoir, with the nearest being at Uttoxeter (60 miles away) or on Anglesey (80 miles away).  This would have led us to having to charge more for lower quality beef from more stressed animals which had travelled further to be killed.  We were also concerned about the environmental impact of the increase in extra fuel which this would have entailed.

Red Poll Steers on the moove!

So LEAF Marque accreditation seemed ideal, and we went for it and gained it for the first time in February 2011.  LEAF Marque has been a huge benefit in terms of publicity and marketing to the extent that we are now struggling to meet the demand for our Red Poll beef.  It is a guarantee to our customers that we are managing the land in a sustainable way and caring for our cattle to the highest standards.  The rigorous annual audit helps to ensure that good intentions are put into practice, and being in LEAF Marque is helping us to save money by encouraging, for example, rainwater harvesting and reduced fuel use.  Do I really need to use a tractor and trailer, or could I just do the job with a wheelbarrow?!

Willow Spiling: traditional bank restoration on the River Gowy funded by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, and completed by The Conservation Volunteers (formerly BTCV)

It may seem a big step to take, but I urge livestock farmers to look at joining the growing ranks of LEAF Marque producers.  You will find you can both save money and command a premium price for what you work so hard to produce.  And, as importantly, it is immensely satisfying seeing the increase in biodiversity on the farm year by year.

Red Polls conservation grazing on the Gowy Meadows

Open Farm Sunday 2012 – a day to be proud of

Open Farm Sunday 2012 was a great success! Our visitor numbers have exceed expectations with our earliest estimate at 150, 000 people getting out onto farms all over the country.

We were amazed by the reaction from both visitors and farmers on twitter throughout the day – you can see a selection here.

We wish to thank all of the farmers who opened up their gates this year, and a big thank you to all the helpers, visitors and sponsors for making this year’s Open Farm Sunday such a success.

We’ve been inundated with photographs from host farmers and visitors alike, with many entries into this year’s photography competition (there’s still time to enter too!). We’ve uploaded a selection to the Open Farm Sunday website here, there’s a Farmers Weekly gallery here, and a small gallery below. Enjoy!

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And remember – next year’s Open Farm Sunday is on the 9th June 2013!

Practical Measures for Improving Water Quality – New videos available!

Farmers looking at ditch and sediment trapFollowing our Practical Measures for Improving Water Quality events at Midloe Grange Farm in Cambridgeshire (22nd March) and Stratton Farms in Somerset (28th March), videos filmed at the events are now available.

The videos, supported by Catchment Sensitive Farming, look at ways of improving how your farming practices impact water quality. Including:

  • Background information from Catchment Sensitive Farming on some of the issues of diffuse water pollution from agriculture through surface run-off
  • Interviews with LEAF Demonstration Farmers, David Felce and Jeremy Padfield, on the measures they have put in place on their farms to mitigate surface run-off

The videos are available below and on LEAF’s YouTube channel – subscribe to be the first to see LEAF’s new videos!

New Podcast: Climate Week and Trade-offs

Image by SamSnook on flickr

LEAF’s Justine Hards is joined by LEAF’s Chairman, Stephen Fell, Vice Chairman, Robert Kynaston, and Chief Executive, Caroline Drummond, discussing some key topics brought up at a recent debate around the competing choices and trade-offs facing food producers in addressing food security and issues around climate change and agriculture.

This week is Climate Week, and in this podcast we address some of the challenges that all of us face as a result of climate change and address the statement, ‘Why rising CO2 levels are actually good for food security’.

You can listen to the podcast with the player below, download an Mp3 or use our RSS feed. The podcasts are also available through itunes here.

Download Mp3 (Right click and “Save target as” to download)

LEAFasks: Food aside, what do you consider to be the most important thing that farming delivers?

We’re a month into 2012 already – so it’s now time for the February LEAFasks question! Remember that you can add your own answer to this one.


FarmingIn the first of our new monthly polls last month we asked our blog readers, “Can the EU afford CAP?”. The results are in and over 60% answered “no”. Over the festive period, Farmer’s Weekly ran a poll asking “Would farming be better off if Britain left the EU?”, which got a similarly split reaction.

There’s been a lot of talk around CAP reform recently, and the responses to our short poll indicate the relative uncertainty within the industry.

For further reading, Charles Cowap, Director, Rural Employer Engagement Development Network, Harper Adams University College (a LEAF Innovation Centre), has provided a list of CAP resources and links on his blog here.

Saving Money and Helping the Environment

This is a second guest post from LEAF Board Member and LEAF Marque farmer, Matthew Naylor. You can read his previous post here.

We have found that when we make changes to help the environment on our farm, they often save us money too.

There were a few years when oil and water were unrealistically cheap and this made for some confusing economics. Nowadays, anything that can be done to reduce the use of power, fertiliser or chemicals makes a real difference to a farm’s bottom line.

I have been planting daffodil bulbs this week. This year we are using some new equipment to make the job easier and more accurate.  We are using GPS technology to steer the tractor on the planter, this ensures that our rows of flowers are perfectly straight. This has two major advantages. The first is that our neighbours can’t take the mickey out of us for wonky driving. I’ve never been one to worry about that; I’m more interested in the second advantage. This is that we can now place the fertiliser very accurately in a little trickle underneath each plant. We have a special blend of fertiliser made for us which is designed around the field’s nutrient levels and the needs of each crop.

Now that we are placing the right fertiliser in the right place, we have reduced the amount of Phosphorous and Potassium that we use by 30%.  We do not need to add any Nitrogen to the daffodils now; they get more than enough from the leftover leaves from the cauliflower crop which we ploughed in before we started planting. This means that we are using half as much fertiliser on our bulbs as we were five years ago but without any difference to our yields. This makes a big financial saving for us. We have applied the same techniques to our potato crops this year as well.

This new system helps to reduce the risk of our soil nutrients oxidising (that’s when they react with the atmosphere and turn into gas), it means that the Nitrogen and Phosphorous are much less likely to be washed into watercourses and it doesn’t encourage weeds to grow in between the flowers.

This type of change is what LEAF farming is all about, setting yourself the challenge to make improvements to the way that you work. Although it takes a bit of time, thought and investment for a start, you always get more back in return.

This post was written by LEAF Board Member Matthew Naylor, a flower grower farming with his father, Nev, in Moulton Marsh in Lincolnshire. They are a LEAF Marque farm supplying Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.

The “S” Word

10.3.2004 shop & Tour 022sky

In an era of climate change hysteria, diminishing natural resources, discussions about food security and political posturing, the word shouting out at us from every angle is “sustainability”.

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