LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Linking farmers, retailers and consumers

one organization has made it a priority

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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November 21, 2003: There is an organization in Great Britain that is committed to a viable agriculture which is environmentally and socially acceptable. LEAF, acronym for Linking Environment and Farming, was founded a decade ago with a mandate to address the growing gap between consumers and farmers.

LEAF's approach to farming is based on Integrated Farm Management (IFM) and common sense farming. Participating farmers manage their farms in an informed, professional and caring way. They combine the best of traditional farming methods with the latest technology. They use many of the management systems used by organic farmers but, when necessary, also use pesticides and fertilizers to keep animals and crops healthy.

LEAF welcomes visits from farmers and consumers to its volunteer Demonstration Farms throughout the U.K. Each site is a working example of Integrated Farm Management -- food production in harmony with wildlife and the countryside. Integrated Farm Management's principles include:

  • Commitment to good husbandry and animal welfare
  • Crop rotation
  • Minimum reliance on crop protection chemicals and fertilizers
  • Efficient soil management
  • Maintenance of the landscape and rural communities
  • Enhancement of wildlife habitats.

LEAF's approach to consumers is through branding. Products from LEAF certified farms carry the LEAF Marque, the consumer's assurance that the farmer involved is committed to Integrated Farm Management and wildlife-friendly farming. Information about a farm's actual production practices is easily accessible. The LEAF Marque on some products comes with a tracking number. Take that number to the LEAF website and you get pictures and descriptions of the certified farm that produced your purchase.

LEAF's approach to retailers is to invite sponsorship and provide easy access to LEAF Marque certification information. The goal is a producer-retailer partnership. The U.K. has a range of assurance schemes in play. Most are focused on health and safety issues. The LEAF Marque complements them with environmental credentials.

There is an opportunity to learn more about this approach to linking environment and farming. Gordon Gatward, Director & Agricultural Chaplain of the Arthur Rank Centre in the U. K., will be the keynote speaker at the Christian Farmers Federation's 2003 annual convention. Gatward will speak on "Lessons from the UK: Linking Farmers, Retailers and Consumers."

The event runs from Thursday, November 27 at 1:00 p.m. to Friday November 28 at 9:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Cambridge, Ontario. There's always room at the CFFO convention for more members and friends. Come for one session or the whole event. There is a registration fee for most sessions, so please pre-register -- call the CFFO office at 519-837-1620. Or visit our website at www.christianfarmers.org and use email. For more information about LEAF visit: www.leafuk.org/leaf.

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