A healthy future for farming

Avatar for Caroline Drummond
By Caroline Drummond
18th September 2020

Agriculture has a vital role to play in producing healthy food, managing landscapes, supporting wildlife and reducing carbon emissions. We asked Caroline Drummond MBE, chief executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), how farming can best meet these challenges.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness.”  Thomas Jefferson

How true this saying is. Food, farming and nature have certainly been under the spotlight during these past months of lockdown. For many of us, the pace of life has slowed, giving us time and space to listen to bird song around us, cook more from scratch with fresh ingredients and grow closer to our local communities. We are increasingly recognising how our food system is closely linked to the natural world around us and our health and wellbeing.

A farmer walking through a field of cows
John Renner from Bellshill Farm, Northumberland practices integrated livestock production | LEAF

It would be fair to say that farming has been relatively untouched by challenges of imposed isolation; the real shocks to farming are staking up with the compound disruptions of climate change, Brexit, changes in support systems and the potential of yet more pandemics. Over the last three decades, LEAF has been at the forefront of developing and promoting agroecological solutions. Ours have been farmer-led, harnessing their forward looking ‘can do’ attitude and eagerness to experiment, adapt and change in order to build more resilient and regenerative approaches.

A woman in front of trees holding a display showing aims of sustainable farming
Caroline promoting the key principles of environmentally-friendly farming  | LEAF

Integrated Farm Management embraces the best of traditional methods in maintaining soil health and working with nature, alongside the best of modern technology, including precision farming, DNA testing, robotics and artificial intelligence. Our priority is to scale-up and fast-track the practices that really deliver change on the ground in terms of more sustainable soil and water management, reducing carbon, tackling waste, enhancing on-farm biodiversity and connecting with local communities.

A farmer talking to a group of young people about his crops
Andrew Francis, Farms Director at Elveden Farms, Norfolk educates young minds about sustainable farming and food production | LEAF

Future farming systems will need to embrace the health of our people, livestock, economy and our planet. And we need to embrace diversity, in nature, in what we grow and eat; reaching out and learning from diverse cultures from across the globe in both cities and rural areas.

'Future farming systems will need to embrace the health of our people, livestock, economy and our planet.'

Above all, collaboration is key. The big conversation needs to start now, ensuring that as we emerge into a new world, we address the uncertainties, disruption and volatility of the future in an imaginative and innovative way, building on the science and blending sustainable solutions with values and ethics.

Investing in linking the environment and farming is not only the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

Find out more about how these ideas are working in practice during LEAF’s Online Farm Sunday on 20 September 2020. Follow the live action on Facebook for live virtual farm tours and beautiful footage of varied and biodiverse farmed landscapes. Tune into Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, and follow #LOFS20

A version of this article was originally published in CPRE’s award-winning magazine, Countryside Voices. You’ll have Countryside Voices sent to your door three times a year, as well as access to other benefits including discounts on attraction visits and countryside kit from major high street stores when you join as a CPRE member. Join us now.

Farmer talking to visitors standing at edge of field of crops
Nick Bragg from Frogmary Green Farm demonstrating sustainable farming in action to visitors LEAF