24 JUL 2018
We were delighted to have Caroline Drummond, chief executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) as our keynote speaker for our annual breakfast at the Royal Welsh Show.
The breakfast is a staple fixture and affords us the opportunity to meet and engage with our rural members in Wales and to also meet with our rural stakeholders.
Caroline gave an upbeat presentation on the opportunities ahead for Wales casting a positive outlook at a time of great uncertainty for Welsh agriculture. She outlined the aims and objectives of LEAF and spoke about our VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It is certainly an acronym for Brexit at the moment.
Caroline had a number of key messages, but first took the time to highlight the key initiatives of LEAF. She outlined the Integrated Farm Management (IFM) initiative, the LEAF demonstration farms which practice IFM, the LEAF marque and the LEAF innovation centre. In particular, she emphasised the need to focus on what we can control. Currently, 36% of UK fruit and vegetables are LEAF-certified and Wales has a huge opportunity to engage with LEAF and promote its unique characteristics, including but not limited to landscape, integrity and community engagement. There are currently 512 hectares under the LEAF marque in Wales, so the opportunities here are obvious.
A startling statistic brought to our attention was that 50% of UK food is ultra-processed with the figure for France being 14%. That certainly gave us all food for thought.
The Open Farm Sunday initiative has been enormously successful and has succeeded in connecting 2.2 million people to farming and instilling in the general public an appreciation of the countryside and its role in food production. As Caroline outlined, farming is a tactile industry and the only one which engages all five senses. Now more than ever there is a need for the public to understand and appreciate the role that farmers play in not only producing food but their role in providing public goods.
There are 16 farms who have been engaged with Open Farm Sunday in Wales and again the opportunities for farmers to foster an appreciation of their role amongst the general public is one that is there for the taking. Caroline highlighted that in order to promote a career in farming children need to have been inspired before the age of 11. With that in mind LEAF merged with Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) last year and this link up has been highly beneficial in assisting in bringing the career of farming to the attention of external audiences.
The opportunities for Wales are far and wide and the real opportunity is to connect the products with the Welsh identity, for example the lamb, the tweed, the cheese, the milk and the beef. The core values of all these products and produce needs to be built on and promoted. As an industry there is also a need to drive trust and understanding.
Importantly, we must stay abreast of trends: Caroline neatly illustrated this point when she told us that 69% of millennials will take a photo of their breakfast each morning. As she highlighted, they are taking a photo of their breakfast 'experience'. In that regard, both the core rural aspect of food and its nutritional content needs to be appreciated.
A startling statistic brought to our attention was that 50% of UK food is ultra-processed with the figure for France being 14%. That certainly gave us all food for thought. Caroline cited current health concerns and the green health agenda, the value of walking and the need for us all as humans to engage with the outdoor life.
After breakfast, RICS conducted meetings with both of the Farmers Unions in Wales where the current consultation from Welsh Government Brexit and Our Land on which RICS will be responding, was the subject of much of the discussions.