Blogs / Sustainable farming policy

Transforming our farming and food systems – recognising, rewarding, and rethinking

In this guest blog from Sustain observer member, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Jess Corsair, LEAF Technical Coordinator, explores how measuring impact and integrated approaches help to deliver greater sustainability in LEAF farms, here and globally.

credit: Pixabay

credit: Pixabay
Sustainable farming and food are high up on the agenda, with issues such as climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, land use, biodiversity loss and waste management all areas of concern. 
 
When it comes to certifying sustainably farmed products, LEAF Marque is a leading global assurance system built on the principles of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) - a whole farm, site-specific farm business approach that uses the best of modern technology and traditional methods. Attention to detail is key to IFM, supporting farming that increases productivity whilst enhancing and protecting valuable resources and the environment. 
 
Last month saw the launch of LEAF’s ninth Global Impacts Report, celebrating the achievements of LEAF Marque certified businesses in delivering more sustainable, regenerative farming and food. It also outlines how LEAF Marque responded to COVID-19, how it is improving sustainable productivity, delivering more climate positive farming systems, engaging with society, and driving policy change.
 
The launch event was the grand finale of the Zoom into LEAF Marque week, a weeklong online gathering of our growers, supply chain partners, policy makers and the LEAF Marque team. We discussed a range of issues covering policy developments, supply chain drivers, and how LEAF Marque is driving uptake of more climate positive farming by providing strong market levers.  
 
We were delighted to report on another great year of results from our growers in 21 countries, representing 299,185 hectares and growing over 270 different crops and animals.   In the UK, some 45% of our fruit and vegetables are LEAF Marque certified. This is an incredible achievement and shows the wide range of different LEAF Marque certified food available for people to buy and enjoy.
We were delighted to report on another great year of results from our growers in 21 countries, representing 299,185 hectares and growing over 270 different crops and animals. 
Enhancing biodiversity has always been an integral part of LEAF Marque. Through IFM, our farmers work with nature rather than against it. They take an agroecological approach to harness the positive interactions between farming and nature. 
 
Our growers have an average of 13% habitat area on their farms and are consistently improving biodiversity year on year with a range of habitats such as hedges, ponds, trees, and habitat banks, providing food, water, shelter, nesting sites, and essential corridors for birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, and pollinators.
 
They are also providing essential ecosystem services to the biodiversity under foot, with root systems improving soil structure and soil health. Additionally, trees and hedges are part of the carbon cycle, absorbing atmospheric carbon and storing it in soil to further improve soil health. A great example of the interrelated, holistic nature of farming and the environment. 
Our growers have an average of 13% habitat area on their farms and are consistently improving biodiversity year on year with a range of habitats
The report also highlights how LEAF Marque farmers are constantly improving performance in relation to carbon and responding to climate change. We see some fantastic achievements in renewable energy generation, with 67% of businesses having one or more types of renewable energy on farm. They are also increasingly turning to systems that track their energy use - 278 farms are monitoring energy, and 39% are using a Carbon Footprinting tool to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. Our farmers are continually improving and setting ambitious targets to reduce emissions and sequester carbon Nearly 400,000 trees and 7,300,000 metres of hedges have been planted by LEAF Marque growers in the past year and 42% are measuring Soil Organic Matter %. 
278 farms are monitoring energy, and 39% are using a Carbon Footprinting tool to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. 
An important aspect of LEAF’s work is education and engagement with society. LEAF Marque certified businesses reach out to a wide range of audiences through social media, engaging with the media, and through live and virtual farm events. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our growers were innovative and creative in the ways they found to communicate with their customers In 2020, 30% of businesses connected with a wider audience through social media, websites, and written articles, and 21% engaged with the media on television, radio and in print. LEAF Marque businesses also got involved in industry outreach and education initiatives such as LEAF Online Farm Sunday, conducting virtual farm tours on Facebook, as well as LEAF Education and Farmer Time.  
 
The message in our Global Impacts Report is one of growth. By measuring our impacts, we are able to demonstrate the power of certification in bringing about real and lasting change in our farming and food systems. 
 
The full LEAF Global Impacts Report can be found here.

Published 10 May 2021

Sustainable farming policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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Technical Coordinator for LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming)

Jessica Corsair

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