Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the harmful effects of pesticides and chemical fertilisers and agricultural practices have been the issue of much public debate. These debates have highlighted the need for a change in the approach to agricultural practices.
Integrated farming has emerged as a logical approach to agricultural practices. Integrated farming or Integrated Farm Management (IFM) attempts to blend beneficial natural processes with modern farming techniques while taking care of the environment. In 1991, the LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) organisation was set up to develop and promote integrated farm management in the UK.
The LEAF Organisation
The LEAF organisation was set up with the idea to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers, and to develop a realistic and achievable system of farming. The LEAF organisation brings together members from national government departments, farmers, conservation, environmental and consumer groups, educational establishments, industry bodies and supermarkets. It is governed by an advisory board which is made up of approximately thirty members.
The LEAF Mission
The LEAF Organisation describes its mission as - “LEAF is committed to a viable agriculture which is environmentally and socially acceptable and ensures the continuity of supply of wholesome, affordable food while conserving and enhancing the fabric and wildlife of the countryside for future generations.”
The LEAF Organisation and its principles of Integrated Farm Management takes into account the whole farm and its needs. LEAF Farming policies also look at farmers as custodians of the counryside, and expects them to minimise environmental risks. To show farmers how IFM works, the LEAF organisations uses working examples – through a nationwide network of Demonstration Farms carrying out IFM. It also organises workshops, discussion forums and field days to help farmers understand IFM and how to “produce affordable food in harmony with the environment”. It provides them with complete assessment of their farms to help them introduce and continue with IFM principles.
Based on the IFM principles, LEAF essentially encourages farmers to care for the environment by:
- Rotating crops to keep the soil in good condition
- Managing hedgerows to provide habitats and food for wildlife
- Pesticides and Fertilisers are used only when absolutely necessary
- Recyling waste, conserving energy and minimising pollution
- Efficient water management
- Assessment of the environmental impact of their farming practices and improving them
- Leaving a buffer strip between crops and nearby waterways as a “wildlife corridor”
- Increasing biodiversity by planting trees and keeping wider field margins
LEAF and the concept of Integrated Farming is now a part of a Europe-wide movement. Other countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Luxembourg have also launched similar initiatives and these projects have come together under the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture (EISA).
This international collaboration allows the LEAF organisation more shared information. It also allows LEAF to have an influence on local policy and international policy through commentating on consultations and briefing ministers, civil servants and EU officials to promote changes.
The LEAF Marque
The LEAF organisation also recognises that consumers have become increasingly concerned about the food they consume and therefore, it attempts to provide the same assurance to food, where ever it is grown, in the UK or outside. The LEAF Marque appears on products that have met the LEAF organisation standards. Farms certified as LEAF Marque can use the logo on all products they sell, directly or through retailers. The current standards for the LEAF Marque can be viewed at LEAF Marque Standards
The LEAF Marque logo assures consumers that the food has been produced based on LEAF (IFM) Farming principles. Consumers can also be sure that the standards are based on local and global assurances schemes covering the entire farm, and have been independently verified by third party certification policies.
Availability of LEAF Marque Products
LEAF Marque produce is available in the UK through Waitrose and Whole Foods outlets. For more details on availabilty visit LEAF Marque
The LEAF Organisations allows its Waitrose consumers to track who produced their LEAF Marque certified food. Through their website, consumers can enter the LEAF Track number to find out the producers details. Also consumers are able to visit LEAF Demonstration Farms.