LEAF to establish first net zero LEAF demonstration farms

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Five pioneering farms across the UK and overseas will be accelerating and demonstrating their journey to net zero, in a new ground-breaking project led by sustainable farming organisation LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and supported by the Co-op Foundation, through the Co-op Foundation’s Carbon Innovation Fund.

The three-year project will see the selected farmers develop and implement a range of sustainable, integrated farming practices suited to their own farms, focusing on soil, water, air and nature to gain a better understanding of the levers for change for addressing net zero and environmental enhancement. They will receive an ongoing programme of training, mentoring and technical support from an external consultant and LEAF, with a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The farmers will also be working towards joining the LEAF Network as its first Net Zero Demonstration Farms to act as hubs for training and inspiration for other farmers as they begin their transition to net zero.

The farms represent a wide range of enterprises, farming systems and management practices and include a tenanted dairy farm in Devon, a mixed organic farm on the Scottish borders, a traditional Cumbrian upland family farm and a large commercial vegetable producer farming land from Norfolk to Inverness. Also joining the team is a family run business in Northern Limpopo, South Africa which aims to become LEAF’s first international Demonstration Farm.

Graeme and Valerie WhyteGraeme and Valerie Whyte
Graeme and Valerie Whyte

Speaking about the announcement Vicky Robinson, LEAF technical director said: “The farming industry is facing huge challenges, with climate change at the forefront. With ambitious industry goals to reach net zero by 2040, this ground-breaking project will support these forward-thinking and innovative farmers with the tools, training, and technical know-how to work towards these targets, collaborating and learning from each other. Moreover, this project provides the five farmers with the opportunity to showcase how their Integrated Farm Management practices align with more sustainable and regenerative farming and crucially, they will act as important hubs for knowledge exchange and development as they go on to become our first net-zero Demonstration Farms.

“Farmers hold a unique power to be an innovative part of the solutions to climate change. We are hugely grateful for the support of the Co-op Foundation which will enable us to drive forward more climate positive farming and food systems for the future health of our planet.”

Coop Net Zero project farmers: Rachel and Richard Risdon- Woodrow Barton, Devon: Based in Devon, Rachel and Richard are tenant farmers on a 151-hectare dairy farm. Spring calving a 300 Friesian x Jersey herd and operating on a grass-based system which is rotationally grazed, Rachel (who is also a practicing vet) and Richard are an innovative couple, bringing their experiences of farming both in the UK and New Zealand, to shape their practices today.

R Mitchell and Sons– Whitriggs Farm, Scottish Borders: Located in the Scottish borders, Stuart Mitchell, along with his wife Kate and his parents, farm a 442-hectare mixed organic farm comprising a herd of 140 suckler cows, with 330 breeding red deer and of 50 hectares of arable.

Rachel and Richard RisdonRachel and Richard Risdon
Rachel and Richard Risdon

Bob Clark- Stone Ends Farm, Cumbria: Based on a traditional family farm in Cumbria, Bob Clark, who is already a LEAF member, farms a 32-hectare upland farm. A pure-bred flock of 200 Herdwick ewes, plus a flock of draft ewes crossed with Texel and Cheviot tups, graze both common and seasonal land, along with bought in young beef cattle for finishing which complement the sheep grazing.

Stephen Shields, technical directo r- Huntapac, Lancashire: A family-owned business in its fourth generation, Huntapac farm 1300 hectares of primarily carrots and parsnips on land extending from Norfolk to Inverness. As a pioneering commercial producer, Huntapac are fully engaged in reducing their carbon footprint, from the first stages of production in the field, to packaging and distribution.

Alan, Graeme and Valerie Whyte - Springfields Farm, Northern Limpopo, South Africa: Situated in Northern Limpopo, South Africa, Springfield Farms is a family run business, comprising 2000 hectares of avocados, macadamia nuts, pecans, timber, and woodland. The Whyte family are passionate about environmentally friendly farming and have introduced a range of measures on farm to conserve and protect local wildlife and vegetation, with a particular focus on Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

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