Tag Archives: IFM

EISA Farm Visit to Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Paul Hayward - Cold Harbour farm (credit Adrian Legge)

Paul Hayward – Cold Harbour farm
(credit Adrian Legge)

Paul Hayward, farms Cold Harbour Farm, at Bishop Burton, East Yorkshire and was one of the first LEAF Demonstration Farms, engaging people with Integrated Farm Management since 1993, soon after LEAF was founded. Paul recently took part in an EISA (European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture) visit to Germany and here he tells us more about what he saw and learnt.

Last month, I was privileged to join the EISA visit to Germany as an observer for LEAF along with Patrick Wrixon (LEAF Board member) and Nick Tilt (LEAF Demonstration Farmer). The whole event was perfectly organised by Andreas Frangenberg and Anton Kraus from EISA.

We attended the DLG field day, an event targeted at crop production professionals, of note it was targeted at the top 20% of farmers. The following link gives a very accurate resume of the visit.

IMG_1910 (3)

Credit Helena Elmquist

It was a fascinating visit with some excellent and very informative presentations and I left wanting to explore the issues much further. Representatives from the agrochemical companies seemed to position the farmers as requiring a complete production package including biodiversity rather than recognising them as land managers with good knowledge. We were privileged to be joined by Professor Olaf Christen (agronomy and organic farming) of Halle University, obviously a talented academic with a good practical understanding of European crop production.

The following day we were given a guided tour of the BASF Biodiversity Farm at Quellenhof by Dr Markius Gerber. A project started in 2012 on the 10, 600 hectare farm which had lost much of its natural habitats in the East German era. Work on a range of measures had started with some impressive results. However, with fields of 250 hectares, there is much still to do.

 

The group enjoyed a wide range of discussions, benefitting from the diversity of the area and the interests of individuals within the group.

For more information on EISA, please visit http://sustainable-agriculture.org/

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Counting Farmland Birds – getting involved in the Big Farmland Bird Count

Kathryn Mitchell, LEAF's IFM Development Manager

Kathryn Mitchell, LEAF’s IFM Development Manager

LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management Development Manager, Kathryn Mitchell, spent Tuesday morning spotting birds in a local field. It was all part of the first annual Big Farmland Bird Count, ending on 7th February. In this post, Kathryn gives an account of her experiences and some results she collected!

There is much talk of the decline in farmland birds across the UK, yet the fields don’t seem devoid of birdlife and many farmers do lots of good work to encourage wildlife, including birds. The Big Farmland Bird Count is a great chance to champion that and see what’s about on some fields near where I live.

Tuesday morning seemed one of the best mornings amongst a week of fairly wet weather. The dark cloud lifted to a beautiful sunny, if cold, morning and we set off with paper, pen, binoculars, camera and much appreciated provisions: tea and bacon sandwiches!

Big Farmland Bird Count

The Big Farmland Bird Count

Some less productive areas of the farm are now exclusively managed for wildlife purposes with fallow, wild bird cover, grass margins surrounded by hedges with some trees. The wildlife is always there, but our vehicle isn’t, so we took up our post early and paused for a while. A wonderful time to sit and watch the surroundings change with the light. So, onto the counting part: 30 minutes overlooking 2ha of wonderful Gloucestershire countryside.

Whilst some of the species were easily identifiable by sight, backed up by their calls, we soon realised that whilst we could count, bird identification at a distance wasn’t our strong point! In addition to the pheasants, rooks, crows, pigeons (as well as hare and deer), we scribbled notes of descriptions and tried to remember the sounds.

It was a great to start to the morning!  Back in the LEAF office, following a short while with some farmland bird reference books, internet searches and phone calls, we’re much more confident that our ‘little brown birds’ are correctly identified as reed bunting, dunnock and many linnets.


Find out more about the Big Farmland Bird Count here >

Notes from an Agricultural Tour of Kenya

Andrew being interviewed for local radio on day one

Andrew being interviewed for local radio on day one

Where in the world are the best examples of Integrated Farm Management (IFM)?  Following Susie Emmett’s post about why Kenya has lots to inspire us, Andrew Burgess, LEAF Trustee and Director of Agriculture at Produce World, shares with us his notes on the same tour. This is the second post in a short series of posts on IFM in Kenya, subscribe to receive them straight to your inbox!


Day 1

Every day’s a School Day
Set off to the airport to meet 3 other farmers at Birmingham, hadn’t a clue what they looked like.

Didn’t take long to spot the ‘Farmer on Tour Hat’ and we all met up. Then off to Amsterdam to meet the other 6 farmers in the team.  Sat next to Tony on the plane to Nairobi, we got chatting about each other’s farms and business, and the learning began.

The farmers on the trip are all of the ‘learned’ types, Nuffield scholars etc., so a pretty good bunch to bounce theories and ideas around, should lead to a stimulating and useful trip.

After a rough night on the plane and the rigours of Nairobi airport we were determined to stay awake so we went to the Elephant Orphanage and then onto the Nairobi branch of the Farmers Club for a good old fashioned colonial Sunday lunch.

Now arrived at the hotel to meet 2 local radio journalists, it’s a great time to be interviewed having now been up for 36 hours! Team building tonight!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew


Day 2

Life after Pesticides

Real IPM with Real IPM
Wow, what a day, I thought my head would explode with new knowledge overload, I’ve seen some fantastic things today which give me great hope that there will be life after pesticides.

We met a fantastic and philanthropic couple (look it up) who hailed from Norfolk and have now made their lives in Kenya, both from an academic research background they have created 2 magnificent but intertwined organisations.

Firstly Real IPM Ltd
They have developed a menu of products to tackle nutrition, pests and diseases using beneficial insects and fungi. I won’t go into massive technical detail other than to say that I left the place hugely inspired and motivated to test these ideas on a field scale in the UK. I think they have the potential to be a big part of pest control in brassica growing and very interesting for Potato Cyst Nematode reduction. Henry and Louise Wainwright had huge credibility the way they explained the research, production and use of these products, which are used on outdoor field scale here in Kenya.

Secondly REAL Impact
Which is a charity, they have developed a range of simple and very low cost solutions to help small Kenyan farmers produce more food, highly nutritious, especially in Vitamin A & Selenium. 1m square vertical gardens, worm farms to recycle food waste back into fertilizers, mini AD plant to run your cooker and hot water, water harvesting & they are training people how to use these things alongside there very affordable bio solutions. (See pictures) This all fits in with their big purpose, which is based on the fact that Aids viral treatments don’t work unless the user has a good diet. To put that into perspective 30% of students at the local university are HIV positive.

There big issue is what to do next, they need capital to role out this fantastic work but they don’t want to sell out to un-ethical corporate business, how about an ethically based crowd funding campaign.

After a fantastic lunch on the veranda we travelled to an Avacodo farm, producing fruit for UK retail, it was out of season but still interesting.

We then crossed the equator en route to our overnight stop, in case you’ve always wandered the water goes clockwise around the hole 20m North and anti-clockwise 20m South and yes, straight down if you’re on the line itself.

I am staying in a tent in the bush 200m from the very remote lodge where the rest of the team is staying, it might be an interesting night!!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew


Day 3

Farming in the Wild West
A very different day today, not so mind expanding but much more into farming on the edge.

We met Apollo who is Director of Agriculture and CSR for KHE, Kenyan Horticulture Exports. A very impressive man who was very passionate about his farm, his community and all things Kenyan; he never stopped smiling and laughing all day.

They grow Fine and Runner beans, tender stem broccoli, mange tout, baby corn and will shortly be into year round asparagus production. They export 95% of their crops mostly to UK.

We visited his plant nursery to start, all hand done, compost into trays, seeding etc., They make their own steam sterilised compost with only 30% peat added, so it can be done! Although the plants had a few unhealthy specimens among them.

Then to the fields, again hand planting and weeding, crops were good and it seems performance is improving on the back of new investment after 7 years of lean; it is biblical here!

photo[3]The highlight of the day for me was seeing the new Waitrose foundation maternity hospital, built in the middle of nowhere and servicing a community seemingly forgotten by its own government. They have also built a five classroom sized school and funded the teachers.

The Waitrose Foundation channels money from retail sales and distributors directly back to projects that the communities growing crops for them want. It seemed to me to be a very efficient way of doing good in Africa, little beaurocacy and little chance of people to fiddle a bit of cash for themselves.

We had a great debate about the rights and wrongs of exporting food from Kenya where 4 million people needed food aid last year, I’ll cover this on its own later in the week because I need to put both sides of the debate so you can decide.

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew


Day 4

Farming on Mount Kenya
Today we visited Finlay’s farm on the slopes of mount Kenya, although we were virtually on the equator we were also at 2300m altitude so the weather was fresher and suited to UK style cropping. The farm is managed by Marcus Rayner, who worked for Produce World before he moved here 2 years ago.

There has been a lot of investment in reservoirs, the Packhouse and covered growing. The farm felt like a happy place, lots of smiles and waves from the local workers, Marcus travels around the farm every day on a motorbike and is clearly connected to his workforce. He has also improved yields and productivity.

They grow Tender stem broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout, fine beans and runner beans, which have supplementary lighting to simulate UK Sumer day length.

Also a fast developing fresh herbs business, mostly in tunnels with bio pest control, the crops looked & tasted wonderful, especially the aniseed flavoured Thai Basil mmmm!

photo 1But it was also had a pioneer feel about it, triumph, (great looking crops) and disaster  (120 mm hail storm in 3 hours) are close cousins in African farming. We then set out on a long drive down a very rough track through some wild grazing country to our overnight stop, we heard a clunking noise so stopped to check and the wheel nuts were all loose, close shave!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew


Day 5

Ladies like Orange Roses
A long day today, up at 5am for our first bit of R&R, we went on a short drive around a game reserve, saw rhino, giraffe, buffalo, Jackal and various bok. The scary bit was a big male baboon actually getting inside the van whilst some of the boys were still in it, we’re laughing now but could’ve been nasty.

We visited Ravine Roses today, a very impressive company, owned by a local family with a very philanthropic approach, we learned about rose production using tunnels (on the equator very hot) integrated pest management, producing their own predator bugs, Swahili name dudu.

We also learnt about Fairtrade, I now I finally get it. 10% of the ex farm price is put straight into the farms FT fund, this is administered and spent through a transparent and democratic process run by the workers and community.

To quote Khaled the CEO, it is equally as good as the Waitrose Foundation but run in a different way; in fact we then went to visit a couple of projects where Waitrose Foundation and FT had worked in a joined up way. We visited the nursery funded by the Waitrose Foundation (for infants to 3 years), which is due to be opened next week and the Kindergarten school next door (3-6 years) was funded by FT. We also visited the community centre with library, computer room, doctors and pharmacy, bank and relaxing room.

The business itself is nicely integrated and is LEAF Marque certified, they are rainwater harvesting and have a wetlands reed bed style water purification plant to recycle water from the pack house.

They have a new dairy herd, which to my eye looked very good. Simon our dairy farmer was impressed with the quality of the milking routine and the animal welfare.Ravine roses, dairy 30 cows > AD plant> power fridges & fertility for rose beds!

The muck from the dairy and the green waste from the pack house will be going into an AD plant (under construction) and the gas generated will power the refrigeration unit in the flower pack house, these guys know what they’re doing!

photo[6]I was also very impressed with the team that showed us around, all local and extremely well educated and trained, Peter for instance, as well as being a fantastic communicator, he has a degree in Horticulture, Masters in Agronomy & an MBA, that leaves me for dust!

Anyway folks what you’ve always wandered; Janice (the owner and marketing Director) took us through some UK market research on Roses; did you know that Ladies prefer Orange roses? Before you go rushing out to impress, they still want men to buy them red ones (passion), we suggested a mixed orange and red bunch to cover all bases!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

[Many thanks to Andrew for sharing his notes with us!]


Join Agri-Tour Kenya 2014: nine UK farmers wanted

If you would like to be considered for a place for the next tour of good agricultural practice in Kenya then contact Susie Emmett susie@green-shoots.org for details of how to apply for the next AgriTour Kenya (http://www.green-shoots.org/agri-tour-kenya-2014/) in March 2014.

Agri-Tour Kenya is organised by Green Shoots for Smiths Gore with financial support from RDPE.

Integrated Farm Management: seeking the best examples in the world

Susie Emmett, Green Shoots Productions

Susie Emmett, Green Shoots Productions

Where in the world are the best examples of Integrated Farm Management (IFM)?  Susie Emmett, just back from guiding a group of UK farmers on a study tour of Kenya, blogs about why Kenya has lots to inspire us. This is the first post in a short series of posts on IFM in Kenya, subscribe to receive them straight to your inbox!


Nine UK farmers, two buses, six days, 1,500 kilometres of ground-travel, tours of seven farming businesses, eight crossings of the equator and hours and hours of stimulating in-depth discussions. The result: so many sights and stories to share with farmers, family and friends at home.

Agritour Kenya Farmers on one of eight equator crossings

Kenya Farmers on one of eight equator crossings

Agricultural Tour of Kenya with Green Shoots

Equatorial Africa may not spring to mind for a tour of exceptionally good agricultural practice. But, as I have often seen on and near the Equator in central Kenya, the day length of about 12 hours, the average temperature and availability of water make growing conditions perfect for a wide range of crops from coffee to cabbages. The fantastic conditions do not just bring out the best in the crops, they bring out the best in certain farmers and scientists too. And it’s why I chose Kenya as the destination for a group of UK farmers to see excellent IFM in action.

Biopesticides: can’t beat them

Amidst rolling hills covered with fragrant, blossom-heavy coffee near Thika is the Kenyan business, RealIPM, leading a global agricultural revolution. Owners Dr Henry Wainwright and Louise Labuschagne are wedded to biological pest control, as well as to each other.

With an eye glass we can see the miniscule predatory insects, Phytoseiulus. RealIPM breeds these for sale and shipping in their billions to flower farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia and beyond to eat spider mite, enabling dramatic reductions in chemical pesticide use.

Charles Bracey looks for pest predators

Charles Bracey looks for pest predators

Their field-scale products are impressive too, evident in the magnificent cabbages and carrots knee high around us. Dosed with a beneficial soil microbe, Trichoderma asperellum, they grow bigger, faster – and fight off pests for themselves.

AgriTour Kenya Learning more IFM with every step at RealIPM, Kenya

Learning more IFM with every step at RealIPM, Kenya

RealIPM have pioneered the use of another soil fungus to kill adult insect pests in banana plants. Using bee power to deliver this bio-pesticide to where it’s needed to kill thrips.

Europe lags behind latest IPM techniques

Africa and the Americas are catching on and adopting these new techniques to control pests effectively and boost crop health and yields, but according to Louise Labuschagne, Europe, with the exception of Denmark is lagging far, far behind. And to her frustration, Louise tells us how she hears leading researchers say the only route to boost food production is with genetic modification. “It’s not. I’m sorry if I sound angry. I am.”, she tells us, “What African agriculture is doing with bio-pesticides and other tools is so exciting. We’re just waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with these solutions.”

Seeing all this was “mind expanding” for the farmers on the tour, leaving them full of respect for these trail blazers and buzzing with thoughts of how such innovations can become part of IFM back home. Andrew Burgess of Produce World used his blog (http://www.fruitnet.com/fpj/article/159929/blog-andrew-burgesss-journeys-of-discovery-kenya) on tour to share his impressions and is offering to host the first UK trials of some of the techniques seen.

Saying it with flowers: Blooming marvellous IFM

In the quiet Kenyan hill town of Eldema Ravine, a rose farm producing 80 million blooms a year nestles in the patchwork of homesteads of the 1,200 workers employed in the fastidious business of growing perfection. It’s a LEAF Marque certified farm. General Manager Peter Kamuren describes the rigorous and smooth-running quality standards system oiled by the high morale of staff and highest standards of management. The display board at the intake to the pack house displaying the day’s statistics of above 95% perfection in over 18,000 blooms picked for packing that day is much admired.

AgriTour Brothers in LEAF

Brothers in LEAF

IFM with community at its heart

The Ravine Roses team consistently supply excellent fresh flowers to four continents: fair dues to their agronomic, ergonomic, and economic skills and the high environmental performance with bio-bed waste water treatment, AD energy generation plant and so on. But it is fair trade and how the farm integrates business ambition with the improvement of quality of life for the surrounding community that is truly awe inspiring. Over half the flowers they sell are fairtrade. The 10% Fairtrade premium, combined with proceeds from Waitrose Foundation, goes not into the farm, but to the community-elected board to invest in facilities such as school classrooms and a community centre with a bank, clinic, IT centre, snooker room and library.

Jamie Gwatkin hands over books from the farmers to the Ravine Rose Community Centre Library

Jamie Gwatkin hands over books from the farmers to the Ravine Rose Community Centre Library

Yes, Kenyan agriculture has problems. Serious problems, I agree. But what the Kenyan farming businesses I describe here demonstrate, is the true essence of ‘smart farming’ or ‘sustainable intensification’ or ‘Integrated Farm Management’ in perfect practice.

The farmers who came on tour agree with me. It’s inspiring. It’s amazing. It’s humbling. See their blogs, and subscribe to this blog for more updates. We’re left buzzing with ideas about what a truly integrated farming business really is. It’s also a jolt and a wake-up call. In the UK more of us need to get the highest level of IFM in principle and then we need to get it into action in our fields, in our food supply chain and in our society.

One key trait in the very best of IFM practitioners is an enthusiasm for helping others to achieve the same high standard. I think it’s great that these Kenyan businesses are prepared to share and show us the way ahead.


Join Agri-Tour Kenya 2014: nine UK farmers wanted

If you would like to be considered for a place for the next tour of good agricultural practice in Kenya then contact Susie Emmett susie@green-shoots.org for details of how to apply for the next AgriTour Kenya (http://www.green-shoots.org/agri-tour-kenya-2014/) in March 2014.

Agri-Tour Kenya is organised by Green Shoots for Smiths Gore with financial support from RDPE.

Green Shoots Productions is a specialist communication and production company helping farmers and others to to inform, influence and inspire.

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.