31 May 2002

Demo farms sought to spread gospel of LEAF

EMBRACING integrated farm management will offer grassland farms the opportunity to improve profitability as well as protecting the environment and promoting positive aspects of farming to a wider public.

That was the message from Mark Tripney, who runs a Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) demonstration farm. Speaking to producers attending a seminar at Grassland 2002, he said many farms are already embracing integrated farm management principles, which form the cornerstone of LEAF.

"Farmers have been slated in the press for many years, but we all have a responsibility and have been our own worst enemies in not promoting what we are doing well."

Becoming a member of LEAF led Mr Tripeny to challenge everything he did when managing the 550ha (220-acre) Leverhulme Estate in Cheshire which supports a herd of 480 dairy cows. "Changing electricity supplier saved £2000 in the first year. We also read water meters every couple of months. Being caught out by an unknown leak can cost a lot of money."

LEAF membership begins with a self assessment package containing questions about the farm business, explained LEAF farms liaison manager Roly Puzey. "These help identify economic and environmental opportunities. Producers send the self assessment form back to us and we compile a report, helping them prioritise which to tackle first."

The organisation is currently keen to attract more livestock producer members and demonstration farms. "Since LEAF started in 1991, its focus has been on integrated crop management. But its integrated farm management principles are very relevant to livestock producers.

"We are looking for new demonstration farms in the predominantly grassland areas of south west England, Lancs and the midlands. Being successful at running a demonstration farm depends on demonstrating good farming practice, enthusiasm and good communication skills," said Mr Puzey. &#42