Tag Archives: LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming)

Frogmary Green Farm Joins Network of LEAF Demonstration Farms

We are delighted to welcome Frogmary Green Farm as a LEAF Demonstration Farm. LEAF’s nationwide network of over 40 LEAF Demonstration Farms showcase the very best of sustainable farming practices.

Nick and Claire Bragg run Frogmary Green Farm, a 500 acre poultry and arable farm, based on the edge of South Petherton in Somerset.  The farm also grows potatoes for supermarkets and maize and grass for fodder.  Frogmary Green Farm joined LEAF in 2008, became LEAF Marque certified in 2013 and regularly hosts both Open Farm Sunday and Open Farm Schools Days.

Frogmary LDF Launch

From Left to Right: Lord Cameron of Dillington (Dillington Farms), Nick Bragg (Frogmary Green Farm) , Patrick Wrixon (LEAF Board member), Claire Bragg (Frogmary Green Farm) and Caroline Drummond (LEAF Chief Executive)

Speaking at a lovely LEAF Demonstration Farm Launch event yesterday, Nick explained, “LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management (IFM) approach is all about striving to achieve balance across the whole farm. We’re working hard in lots of practical ways to conserve and enhance the natural environment by planting trees, creating wetland areas and cutting our carbon footprint.  All of us on the farm care deeply about our precious environment and want to do all we can to enhance it whilst producing food to the highest welfare and environmental standards.  “We are also passionate about bringing people onto the farm, to share what we are doing and help to break down some of the barriers that exist between producers and consumers.”

Frogmary Green Farm was officially welcomed to the network during yesterday’s event which included the planting of a large leaved lime tree by Lord Cameron of Dillington who spoke of the great work Nick and Claire are doing.

A short tour of the farm included a visit to one of the chicken houses, where one of Frogmary Green Farm’s main ‘crops’ can be seen through a viewing gallery. Nick and Claire were the first to install a biomass woodchip boiler for heating chicken houses, utilising locally sourced timber. Other discussions included potato production and more about their ongoing commitment to environmental enhancement such as through the planting of some 4 kilometres of hedgerows and over 500 trees since 2002. Pollen and nectar margins to provide extra habitat for bumblebees and other insects have also been established.  This has resulted in a huge variety of wildlife making its home at Frogmary Green Farm including cuckoo, linnet, song thrush, swift and whitethroat.

Nick and Claire Bragg Frogmary Green Farm, LEAF's latest demonstration farm

Nick and Claire Bragg,  Frogmary Green Farm, the latest LEAF Demonstration Farm

As a LEAF Demonstration Farm, Frogmary Green Farm will act as a ‘living classroom’ demonstrating and promoting the principles of Integrated Farm Management to opinion formers, educationalists, politicians, consumers and conservation groups as well as to community groups and local schools.

LEAF Demonstration Farms play a hugely vital role in sharing best practice amongst farmers as well as being a great way to help educate the public about how modern food production can co-exist with protecting nature and the countryside.  Frogmary Green Farm is an excellent example of sustainable farming in action and represents what Integrated Farm Management is all about.

If you are interested in visiting Frogmary Green Farm, or another LEAF Demonstration Farm, to learn more about Integrated Farm Management in practice, please get in touch with the LEAF office:

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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.

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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/

Engaging visitors at Open Farm Sunday

Tom Allen Stevens, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator

Tom Allen Stevens, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator

In the tenth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Tom Allen-Stevens, South East Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, tells us how he engages the public on his farm at Open Farm Sunday.

I don’t much care for BBC’s Countryfile, but there is one part I really enjoy. Ever since they made Adam’s Farm a regular feature, it’s made the programme worth watching.

What makes Adam’s Farm stand out? I think it’s the fact that he’s an actual farmer, talking about something he is passionate about, and it’s usually on his own farm. There’s an honesty about the way he pats his Gloucester bull or grasps an ear of wheat and then tells you about.  It really does make compelling viewing.

But there’s nothing mind-blowingly fascinating about Adam’s Farm – it’s not like he’s trialling a GM crop, forging a solution to TB or inventing a new way in wool. It’s just the ordinary goings on of a Gloucestershire farm. And I think that’s the secret to it, it’s why the programme draws in nine million viewers every week, and what makes 200,000 people visit farms on Open Farm Sunday.

They’ve come to meet the farmer – experience a little of what it’s like to grow food and care for the countryside. So what I always try to do when I’m showing visitors around or explaining something is tell them about my farm from my point of view. I keep it personal and tell them about the things I enjoy, or dread, or what matters to me – it’s when you’re at your most honest, and most comfortable, and I think people really appreciate it.

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I’ve a few key props I always use. Firstly, an apple and a knife. I remember when I was first shown the apple trick, and it just clicked – have a look at the download instructions to find out more. It’s a really great way to tell the farming story.

Also something to taste – I usually cut up some bread and provide some rapeseed oil for people to dip it in. It makes the whole experience more memorable if you engage more of the senses. And then something for them to take away. One thing I found works really well (and it sounds absurd) is to pull up a wheat plant, and then share round the tillers to all the children in the group. We’ll count the grain sites, number of leaves or judge how much disease it’s got. You’ll often find those children still have their special ear of wheat when they leave the farm.

I always try to keep it positive too – there are all sorts of negatives in farming, but Open Farm Sunday is about how my farm’s making a positive contribution to farming. So negatives are banned – it makes you feel much better about yourself if you just concentrate on the positives, and I swear it’s more engaging. If you introduce a bit of magic that helps – everyone knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, so why not give a child a bean and suggest it may be a magic one? Or could there be fairies in your wood?

My final rule is to keep it jargon-free. You’d be surprised at the words we use that mean something totally different to non-farmers, or are complete gobbledegook. Headland, drill, for instance. An acre is about the size of a football pitch, a heifer is a female cow and an agronomist a crop doctor.

I think we all admire the way Adam tells us about his farm in such an engaging and open manner. But I think every farmer can do the same – we all have a fascinating story to tell, and we’re at our best when we’re on our own farm telling people about the things that truly matter to us.

Register for Open Farm Sunday here >

What we’re planning for Open Farm Sunday

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria

In the sixth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Gail Anderson our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, discusses her plans for Open Farm Sunday.

My mantra for Open Farm Sunday is “The everyday to farmers is a fascinating day out to everyone else”. Just because you live on a farm and interact with it 7 days a week it doesn’t mean that the people coming to visit your farm have the slightest clue of what you do. With this in mind, the activities planned for Open Farm Sunday can be as simple or as creative as you want.

Tidy your farm up and let the public see a few pens of livestock, clean out your parlour and have the machines pumping water through them, or organise a farm walk or tractor and trailer ride. Something simple like showing an ear of corn, the corn in grain and then a selection of things which could be made from it, i.e. flour, bread, etc, can fascinate an audience.

Open Farm Sunday

Animals always add an attraction, but if you don’t have any of your own, then why not ask your neighbours to bring some of their animals or be on hand to answer questions about lambing, calving, and the like? Remember to adhere to the health and safety guidelines for livestock:

  • Have them in a newly bedded up area
  • Ensure there is no seepage or run-off from the livestock
  • Have someone supervise the area

If you let the public pet the animals make sure you have hand-washing facilities; or if you don’t want visitors to touch the animals,  try some lengths of drainage pipe to allow people to feed the animals, this will make them feel connected without the worry of any potential health concerns).

Hand washing facilities are paramount: simply have a running tap (hot or cold), liquid soap and paper towels, put up signs to encourage hand washing and have helpers to ensure visitors keep their hands clean. It’s that simple.

From personal experience it is great to rope in friends and family to not only help with the management of the day but also to add a bit of variety. Some friends, who work in the logging industry, come to give demonstration of horse drawn bracken rolling, we know people in the RSPB who are happy to have a stand and take people on guided walks, friends have small rural companies so they have a stall or two selling rural crafts. The tractor and trailer rides always go down a storm, as does a barbeque if you have your own produce – both of these things are firm favourites for our Open farm Sunday events.

Your local NFU or Young farmers may also be interested. It’s so much fun, especially when you have extra people mucking in. Promotion needn’t be a headache either; anything from a few posters in local shops or the odd sign dotted about, to getting in touch with local newspapers and radio and asking for some coverage. Make it as big or as small as you like!


If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.


About Gail

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, lives with her parents on their 200 acre arable and livestock farm in County Durham. The family as a whole has found involvement in Open Farm Sunday very rewarding, and a wonderful way to inform the public about farming whilst also connecting with the local farming community and friends.

Visit the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow when it stops near you!

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

In the third of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, David Jones, Farm Manager at Morley Farms Ltd, invites you to the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow of Information Events. Subscribe to this blog to receive updates directly to your inbox!

To retain its competitive edge, a Formula 1 team would keep its innovations and designs under wraps until the last minute. But most farming businesses are somewhat different – after all, most of what we do is done outside. If I did find a new variety of golden beans, then it would be out growing in a field for all to see!  As commodity producers we are not in direct competition with each other, so we can open our gates and openly discuss what we do. This is the reason why I think Open Farm Sunday works so well.

Every year LEAF holds events for host farmers and this year, we’re going one step further with a new Roadshow of 24 events across Britain from Exeter to Inverness!  Each Information Event is not only for newcomers to Open Farm Sunday, but experienced hosts who want a refresher and gather new ideas and top tips including the all-important health and safety.

Wherever you manage to catch the Roadshow, I’m sure you will be inspired.  All events follow the same format, however there is the flexibility to address specific concerns and embrace the experience of people in the room, sharing ideas and solutions to common problems.

At one event I ran last year, a farmer in Essex was worried that they had a small farm down a narrow lane and lived near a large population of people. What if thousands of people turned up and what if it rained? The advice was maybe having a ‘ticket only’ event with a restricted number of people. Or limiting promotion of the event by giving quantities of event flyers to local primary schools to put in their book bags.  Or just go for it and have lots of friends and neighbours on standby to help if required on the day. As for parking, maybe they could borrow part of a neighbour’s field.

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Many of the questions revolve around health and safety. The first step is to apply some common sense. Look around the farm for anything that is sharp/pointy/oily/dirty/greasy/slippery. Protect from visitors by cleaning, covering or removing it from the site, but best of all simply keep it behind a barrier or fence.

One of the most critical things is to prevent animal faeces coming in contact with people, particularly children under 5 years. If you want some bedtime reading the ‘Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions – Industry Code of Practice‘ gives some up to date information.  And join the Roadshow when it stops at a town near you for all the latest information.


If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.


About David

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 730 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet. The farm also hosts about 35ha field trials for NIAB TAG, the John Innes Centre, Agrovista and others. Every year the farm has about 800 visitors including school children, students, farmers, consultants and international groups. David has helped and co-hosted several Open farm Sunday events and in 2013 became Regional Coordinator for the eastern region.

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.

Sustainable Agriculture: Show me the money

Next week (it’s come around quickly!), we will be holding our annual President’s Event in London. As always, the response has been tremendous and we’re now fully booked. However, for the first time this year, you can follow the event live on our website! Commentating on the event live will be LEAF Trustee, Cedric Porter – click here to go to the live event page.

The theme of this year’s event is ‘Sustainable Agriculture: Show me the money’. Valuing the outputs of sustainable agriculture is an incredibly difficult task, the public goods farming delivers are vast and often difficult to quantify. This conference will explore the three pillars of sustainability, debate new ideas on how money can be made from each of them and examine LEAF’s role in making this happen.

We interviewed LEAF’s Chief Executive, Caroline Drummond about the theme of this year’s event, you can see the video below. Caroline spoke about the increasing demands society is placing on what it expects from agriculture – ranging from a plentiful supply of affordable food, traceability, a thriving environment and access to a well-managed landscape, bringing with it a host of health and wellbeing benefits.  She explained that new ways of thinking need to be explored to ensure farmers are able to deliver on all these levels, whilst also looking after their own bottom line.   Ultimately, she said, profitability has to lie at the very heart of sustainability.

Get involved in the event by tweeting with the hashtag #LPE13 and follow the event live here!  To keep up to date with our President’s Event, please subscribe to LEAF’s EBrief here.

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.


 

The 21st century battle for farmland wildlife

Guest Blog from Martin Harper, Conservation Director, RSPB

Martin Harper has been the RSPB Conservation Director since 2011 and oversees the Society’s work on conservation policy and advocacy, research and acquisition of nature reserves. Prior to joining the RSPB in 2004, Martin spent five years at Plantlife International, having previously run Wildlife & Countryside Link. Educated at Oxford and UCL, Martin undertook fieldwork in the Comores and Mongolia before embarking on a career in policy and advocacy. Away from work, Martin enjoys family life with his wife and two children. He claims that running keeps him sane, while Arsenal FC and the England cricket team provide him with emotional highs and lows.


Our country’s farmed landscapes provide one of our greatest assets.  Managed well they provide large quantities of healthy food and attractive countryside full of colour and the sounds of wildlife which people can enjoy.

But as farmers became increasingly proficient at producing food the second half of the last century, other services that that land offers (from clean water and carbon storage through to healthy wildlife populations) have suffered.  This was the conclusion of the National Ecosystem Assessment produced in 2011.  This also explains why there is a crisis for farmland wildlife.  While much of the damage was done in the 1970s and 1980s as the Common Agriculture Policy incentivised production, despite the best efforts of wildlife-friendly farmers, populations of many farmland birds remain in a critical condition.

As the latest UK Government’s report into the state of the populations of wild birds shows the turtle dove and the grey partridge are displaying staggering reductions in their numbers.

Grey PartridgeOnce widespread in southern Britain, the turtle dove population – which is currently estimated at 14,000 pairs – is now balancing on a knife-edge in the UK, with nearly 60 per cent lost in the five years to 2010. The UK grey partridge population is estimated to be around 43,000 pairs, but this too has fallen, by 30 per cent over the same period.

What is frustrating is that there are farmers doing the right thing.  I was lucky enough to visit the Duke of Norfolk’s estate near Arundel recently and see the impressive turnaround in grey partridge numbers in the past five years – from 3 to 83 pairs.  And there are many others, who we celebrate through our Nature of Farming Awards who are doing similarly great things.

But it is not enough.  We’ve demonstrated at our commercial conventional farm in Cambridgeshire that you can triple the number of farmland birds whilst increasing yields using Entry Level Environmental Stewardship.  This a scheme available to all farmers and is funded through the Rural Development Programme for England as part of the so-called Pillar II of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).  We have the tools to recover farmland wildlife which is why it is so frustrating that that too few farmers are taking the chance to do the right thing.  LEAF members know this and so do the 3,000 farmers we speak to each year through our farm advice programme.

We need farmers to be the vital guardians of our landscape and wildlife.  And they need support.  This is why we have been making a fuss about the big European debate about the one trillion Euro EU Budget for 2014-2020.

In these times of austerity, cuts across many areas are inevitable, but when the Heads of State met in November the horse-trading and true colours were revealed.  Pillar II was getting hammered with cuts proposed of over 20% in real terms, at a time when we need more investment in the natural environment, not less.

Pillar 2 is not perfect, but it delivers real value for money.  It is the bit of the budget that supports those things for which there is no market – healthy soils, water quality and yes, wildlife.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in these tough times, in a recent RSPB survey, we found that 96% of farmers think environmental work on their farms would be impacted if payments for wildlife-friendly farming were stopped or reduced.  This would have devastating consequences for wildlife across Europe and in the UK.

To our relief, these proposals were not adopted – talks collapsed without agreement and decisions postponed until early next year.

The good news coming from all of this is that there was a greater public debate about the relative merits of the use of European taxpayers money and the CAP itself.  The CAP can be perceived as a dry subject, and getting the wider public to understand how it affects us all – or even to know or care it exists – is a constant challenge.

This is something that LEAF knows well.  Earlier this year LEAF found a shockingly poor level of awareness about where our food comes from amongst young adults.  Conservationists and farmers alike need the general public to be interested in agriculture, and to show government that they care.

The recent nationwide coverage of CAP will have helped more people understand a bit more about the food on our plates, and care a bit more about how their taxes are being spent.  The farmed environment – and the people and wildlife that depend on it – will need their support when the debates resume next year.