Delivering More Sustainable Farming Across the EU Through On-Farm Demonstration

Leading sustainable farming organisation, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) was one of 17 partners in 12 countries across the EU collaborating on a pioneering project examining the effectiveness of on-farm demonstration in driving forward more sustainable farming.

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The two-and-a-half-year project – PLAID (Peer-to-Peer Learning: Accessing Innovation Through Demonstration), led by the James Hutton Institute – a LEAF Innovation Centre concluded in June 2019. It brought together farmers, advisors, NGO’s, industry representatives, researchers and policy makers across the EU to examine the ‘what’ ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the farm demonstration model in promoting learning by farmers, encouraging uptake of new innovations, providing networking and social connections and identifying how the demonstration model needs to develop in order to support the uptake of more sustainable farming.

Key outcomes of the project include:

  • An on-line inventory of demonstration events across Europe – the FarmDemo Hub, produced in collaboration with the AgriDemo project – allowing farmers to access events, register as demonstration farmers and find resources and support including case studies and videos.
  • A comprehensive guide for on-farm demonstrations setting out six simple steps for designing an effective demonstration event, including setting objectives, selecting the right farm, event set-up, promotion, learning methods and evaluation.
  • Case studies from farmers across Europe involved in demonstration activities sharing their experiences and expertise.
  • A set of best practice recommendations on effective on-farm demonstration to inform policy.
  • Virtual Demonstration – a series of videos featuring LEAF Demonstration Farmers helping to further share expertise amongst the wider farming community.

Speaking on the project, Alice Midmer, LEAF Demonstration and Innovation Manager said:

“We have long known that farmers learn best from other farmers. This project has really drilled down into the specifics and addressed some challenging questions around the practical, social and theoretical aspects of on-farm demonstration. It has also delivered some tangible and practical resources and recommendations.

“Demonstration events are a smart investment that can help accelerate the adoption of game changing innovations. Learning through demonstration has the potential to revolutionise how we do things and address some our most persistent challenges around the adoption of more sustainable farming.

“The outcomes of this project will help to transform the effectiveness of on-farm demonstration as a vehicle to drive forward more sustainable farming – not only in the UK but across the EU.

“We know more now about the specific ingredients of effective on-farm demonstration, we have better insights into how it can be used to promote learning and encourage adoption of new ideas and technologies, we have learnt more about what motivates farmers to host and participate in demonstration events and we have developed a clear road-map of how we want to take the demonstration farm model forward.

“We are hugely excited about the opportunities the results of this project offer our members and the wider farming community to boost their own learning and engagement at farm level.”

Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive added:

“It has been a privilege to be involved in this pioneering multi-disciplinary project. Knowledge generation and exchange amongst farmers is critical to build the resilience of farming systems across the globe. PLAID’s focus was on creating added value from the exchange of knowledge, actors, farmers and technical expertise between networks in order to boost innovation uptake and improve peer to peer learning and network connectivity between farmers across Europe. In the end, it all contributes to a more competitive, sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. We look forward to building on the outcomes of the project and to farmers using our tools and resources to reach out to each other as we work together to address shared global challenges.”

Full press release click here.

More information on PLAID (Peer-to-Peer Learning: Accessing Innovation Through Demonstration), can be found at www.plaid-h2020.eu