Car­o­line Drum­mond MBE

Hon DSc, NSch, Hon­FSE, FRAgS, FIAgM, FRSA, FSB, CEnv, BSc (Hons) Agric
24th June 1963 — 23rd May 2022

Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) for over 30 years.

A force of nature, a visionary, and a champion for more sustainable farming.

Caroline or ‘CD’ as she was known to so many, tirelessly championed the development and uptake of more sustainable, regenerative farming. She was also passionate about bridging the gap between farmers and the public. She led LEAF from the very beginning in 1991 when it was first formed, and for over 30 years has been the driving force behind the charity, which has grown from its humble beginnings to the globally recognised and respected organisation it is today.

Not originally from a farming background, her father was a diver, she worked on a range of farms in the UK and across the world and, after graduating from Seale Hayne Agriculture College, joined the MDS (Management Development Services) graduate scheme as one its first recruits. She was greatly inspired by every farm she worked on and soon learnt about the skills and capability of the farmers and the sheer joy of being involved with soil, nature, water and growing. Prior to joining LEAF, Caroline was as an agronomy lecturer and forklift truck driver instructor at Shuttleworth Agricultural College. LEAF represented everything Caroline fundamentally believed in - the importance of science-based farming; taking the best of modern technology and traditional methods; working with nature not against it. Critically, alongside this, the need for our industry to engage with consumers.

Caroline was first and foremost all about people; forging partnerships, bringing different groups together to work on shared objectives and creating alliances and deep friendships across the whole farming industry. She often said, “it’s all about people”. Whether out in the field with LEAF Demonstration Farmers, speaking at countless conferences, in talks with Government ministers, meeting people at LEAF Open Farm Sunday events, Caroline’s genuine love and interest in everyone shone through.

Caroline was a giant in the world of farming and received numerous accolades during her long and accomplished career including:

Caroline was rooted in the farming industry and was instrumental in the development of so many early industry initiatives, such as the Integrated Arable Crop Production Alliance (IACPA) and the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture (EISA). It was her conviction that the pursuit of more sustainable farming had to be farmer-led and practical, grounded in rigorous scientific research that underpinned the formation of the LEAF Network. Today this includes 39 leading Demonstration Farms and 14 world class Innovation Centres who collectively drive forward Caroline’s ‘science into practice’ vision.

It was Caroline’s tireless energy, determination and strength of character that led to her setting up the UK’s first environmental assurance system, LEAF Marque. She believed strongly that consumers should have access to food that was produced on farms that were raising the environmental bar by managing soils and water more sustainably, conserving energy, reducing waste and enhancing biodiversity: practising Integrated Farm Management. Her unwavering belief in the power of certification to bring about real and lasting changes to global production lies as the very heart of LEAF Marque, which now operates in 19 countries and certifies some 48% of the UK produced fruit and vegetables.

One of her most shining legacies will be establishing and driving forwards farming’s annual open day, LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LOFS), which, for the five years pre-Covid, positively impacted on over half a million people each year. Caroline loved to visit LOFS events, to meet host farmers and their helpers, to hear their LOFS stories and to witness their energy and enthusiasm, and visitors’ joy and gratitude.

Caroline was also passionate about educating young minds and oversaw the successful merger of FACE (Farming And Countryside Education) with LEAF, forming LEAF Education.

In a recent interview, Caroline was asked what she would like to be remembered for, this was her reply:

'Essentially, I think I would like to be remembered for the part I have played in building bridges. When LEAF started out, the notion of organisations as disparate as the NFU sitting around the same table as say, the CPRE or the RSPB was almost unthinkable. I have always been motivated by people and partnerships and I hope that I will be remembered for bringing people together, inspiring retailers, policy makers, conservationists, consumer groups and farmers to work in partnership towards a shared vision of a more sustainable planet. And of course, I will forever be remembered for being the “LEAF Lady”!'

The farming industry salutes Caroline and she will remain forever as the “LEAF Lady”. We have lost an inspirational leader, but we are all determined to continue her legacy with the same drive and energy that she put into all of her work. There really are no words to express how she will be missed within LEAF and across the farming industry; but most deeply by her family, Phil and Gabrielle. We know you will join with us in extending our heartfelt condolences.

Tributes


Tributes from across the food and farming community have been paid to the much-loved lifelong sustainable farming advocate Caroline Drummond. Thank you from all the LEAF Team for your love and condolences. They mean a lot. Here are just some of the hundreds of tributes:

Caroline was that rare thing - a high achiever who always remained grounded and was not only admired and respected for her capabilities and achievements but loved by so many of us for the person she actually was. Bruce Tozer, one of the first LEAF Demonstration Farmers

No words indeed to express our sense of loss. Because we all gained so much from knowing & working with dear Caroline. Formidable, determined, persuasive, caring, inspired & inspiring, driven & driving: for us who worked with her we will continue to work for her & her vision. Susie Emmett, Green Shoots

She was a tour de force within the agricultural community, her sense of purpose and commitment was renowned, and for which she will be greatly missed. Caroline was first and foremost passionate about environmentally-friendly farming. She recognised how food production worked hand-in-hand with the environment and was a fantastic advocate for integrated farm management. My thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends at this incredibly difficult time. Minette Batters, NFU President

Her energy and commitment was inspirational and she was someone who connected people and ideas and was tireless in trying to improve our world. Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, James Hutton Institute

Caroline was without doubt one of the most committed & dedicated people within the agricultural industry. She was a huge positive force for good. Robbie Moore MP

The spontaneous outpouring of grief at Caroline Drummond’s tragic death is a fitting tribute to a remarkable lady. She knew and was known by everyone who was anyone in farming and food and as their comments show they all loved and respected her. What a lady! David Richardson, LEAF founder and first Chairman

Caroline did so much to promote regenerative farming. Victoria Prentis MP

An inspiration for so many farmers - and who set up one of the very first environmental standard certifications. Her drive and enthusiasm will be sorely missed. Anna Hill, BBC Farming Today

To have met and worked with Caroline Drummond MBE, to have shared her passion for environmental and sustainable farming, to be a LEAF Demo Farm with her at the helm of LEAF have all been a huge honour and privilege. James Loder-Symonds, Nonington Farms

We have lost a giant of our industry George Dunn, Tenant Farmers Association

She was a remarkable woman who was always so full of energy and a great ambassador for British agriculture. She will be hugely missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know her. Philip Case, Farmers Weekly

Caroline was immeasurable and immense. Caroline was a total ambassador for farming and the environment way back in the 90s when it was confined to the cranky club. James Miles-Hobbs

My friend, my inspiration, my farming conscience, my positive challenger. Our farming world is poorer today but your legacy will live on and your ambitions will be realised. Rest peacefully @LEAFchief Jake Freestone, Overbury Enterprises