Between September and November 2010, Jane Mills, Janet Dwyer and Nick Lewis worked on a project for LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) to assess the benefits of LEAF membership to farmers. LEAF is a non-profit organisation that aims to help farmers produce good food to high environmental standards, including offering a specific quality mark, the LEAF Marque logo, which is used on produce supplied to Waitrose by LEAF farmers.
A small but representative sample of LEAF farmer members was interviewed, covering all the main UK farm types, most UK regions, and a good range of farm sizes. These members used a variety of the services that LEAF provides, including the LEAF Audit and LEAF Marque accreditation. The interviews, conducted in September and October 2010, were in-depth and based around a semi-structured questionnaire. Findings were subsequently analysed and compared to the findings of larger LEAF membership surveys undertaken in 2008 and 2010.
The study identified three main areas where farmers benefit from LEAF membership: financial, environmental and social. The research confirmed that LEAF membership offered significant financial benefits to farmers in relation to on-farm cost savings, additional income, market benefits and adherence to regulatory requirements. Other benefits included improved energy efficiency and reduced use of inputs without compromising output, as well as increased awareness of the environment, which led to improved biodiversity, soil structure and water quality. The LEAF Marque accreditation was seen as essential for members in securing supermarket contracts, retaining existing customers or commanding a premium price for products. Equally importantly for farmers, LEAF membership provided valued social benefits, including networks for learning, improved contact with the public, and a perception of greater understanding and appreciation among the wider community.
The final report can be downloaded from the LEAF website.