Caroline Drummond has been awarded the 2019 Farmers Weekly Lifetime Achievement Award.
Caroline has worked tirelessly for almost three decades for a charity that has shaped farming and agriculture across Britain and around the world.
From its humble beginnings in 1991, Linking Environment And Farming (Leaf) has grown under her leadership to become a hugely influential organisation, encouraging more sustainable farming practices and improving public understanding of farming and the environment.
One of Leaf’s flagship events is, of course, Open Farm Sunday, which each year connects more than one-quarter of a million people with farming, but another of her huge achievements has been leading the Leaf Marque initiative – a farm assurance system recognising products grown sustainably with care for the environment. She also recently led the successful merger with the charity Farming and Countryside Education (Face).
Caroline’s impact has been huge, according to former Leaf chairman Stephen Fell, who recalls her huge efforts to “cajole and influence” people into accepting and promoting sustainable agriculture, mainly through the mechanism of integrated farm management.
- Chief executive of Linking Environment And Farming (Leaf), which worked with about 1,000 businesses in 27 countries in 2018 and had a crop area of more than 300,000ha in the UK covered by its certification scheme
- Key player in ensuring farmers deliver production systems that feed the growing world population and meet the government’s new environmental agenda
- Instrumental in ensuring the highest standards are upheld in the UK and around the globe
- Had a huge effect on educating the public about agriculture and food production
“Caroline is a great communicator and has a huge list of contacts across government, retailers, researchers, NGOs and, of course, farmers, all of who respect her views and forthright discussions,” says Mr Fell.
“She is always good fun to be with, challenging and someone who likes being challenged. Farming has a huge amount to thank her for.”
Co-founder of Leaf, David Richardson, recalls giving Caroline a job at the then-fledgling charity back in the early 1990s.
“When we launched, the charity was running on a shoestring. For several years, we barely had two pennies to rub together, but Caroline was so devoted she used to take a sleeping bag and sleep under her desk in the office at Stoneleigh.
“I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life, but appointing Caroline certainly wasn’t one of them. She’s done a superb job and what Leaf has achieved has exceeded my wildest dreams.”
Caroline was awarded an MBE for her services to the agricultural industry in 2009. She is also a Nuffield scholar and was recently named one of the Women Economic Forum’s “Women of the Decade”. All this, of course, happens when she’s not busy on the family dairy farm in Cornwall.
A graduate in agriculture, she’s a true “integrationist”, effectively combining the three components of sustainability – environmental, economic and social – in her work.
As former editor of Crops magazine, Debbie Beaton, observes: “She’s been a pioneer when it comes to the notion of sustainable agriculture in the UK.
“Over the past few decades, a lot of people talked solely about the environment, while others talked solely about food production. Caroline was ahead of her time in terms of putting the two together and linking the environment and farming. Her impact on British agriculture has been game-changing.”
In Leaf’s 2018 annual report, Caroline highlighted the crucial role of farmers providing food, managing biodiversity, acting as part of the solution to climate change mitigation, fashioning landscapes and contributing to rural infrastructure. “Leaf’s time is now,” she wrote.
With agriculture entering a period of huge change in its bid to feed the growing global population and steward the environment, the need for organisations like Leaf – and people such as Caroline – will be even more vital in the coming years.
The 2019 Lifetime Achievement award is sponsored by the Woodland Trust
“Caroline has been relentless in her pursuit of bringing greater sustainability to our food and farming systems, and passionate in her pursuit to increase the understanding of farming among the public, as well as farming’s understanding of the public.
In being at the helm of an organisation that has opened farms across the country, helped numerous farmers speak out and demonstrate what they are doing on their farms, she has been committed to seeing the contribution of farming to the environment recognised.
“A force of nature as well as a force for nature, Caroline is a great ambassador for linking the environment and farming. This award is richly deserved.”
Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust