Estab­lish­ing our first net zero LEAF Demo Farms

Five pio­neer­ing farms across the UK and over­seas will be accel­er­at­ing and demon­strat­ing their jour­ney to net zero in our new ground-break­ing project sup­port­ed by the Co-Op Foundation.

This exciting three-year project will see our selected farmers developing and implementing a range of sustainable, integrated farming practices suited to their own farms, focusing on soil, water, air and nature to gain a better understanding of the levers for change for addressing net zero and environmental enhancement. They will receive an ongoing programme of training, mentoring and technical support from an external consultant and our technical team, with a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The farmers will also be working towards joining the LEAF Network as its first Net Zero Demonstration Farms to act as hubs for training and inspiration for other farmers as they begin their transition to net zero.

Speaking about the announcement Vicky Robinson, LEAF Technical Director said:

“The farming industry is facing huge challenges, with climate change at the forefront. With ambitious industry goals to reach net zero by 2040, this ground-breaking project will support these forward-thinking and innovative farmers with the tools, training, and technical know-how to work towards these targets, collaborating and learning from each other."

“Farmers hold a unique power to be an innovative part of the solutions to climate change. We are hugely grateful for the support of the Co-op Foundation which will enable us to drive forward more climate positive farming and food systems for the future health of our planet.”

Introducing our Co-Op net zero project farmers:

Rachel and Richard Risdon- Woodrow Barton, Devon

Based in Devon, Rachel and Richard are tenant farmers on a 151-hectare dairy farm. Spring calving a 300 Friesian x Jersey herd and operating on a grass-based system which is rotationally grazed, Rachel (who is also a practicing vet) and Richard are an innovative couple, bringing their experiences of farming both in the UK and New Zealand, to shape their practices today. They wish to understand more about their carbon footprint, how to protect their water courses and encourage more biodiversity on-farm.

R Mitchell & Sons– Whitriggs Farm, Scottish Borders

Located in the Scottish borders, Stuart Mitchell, along with his wife Kate and his parents, farm a 442-hectare mixed organic farm comprising a herd of 140 suckler cows, with 330 breeding red deer and 50 hectares of arable. Already incorporating low-intensity practices and embracing new changes on farm, Stuart and his family are keen to find the right balance of productivity and understand more about their organic system, on the route to net zero and beyond.

Bob Clark- Stone Ends Farm, Cumbria

Based on a traditional family farm in Cumbria, Bob Clark, who is already a LEAF member, farms a 32-hectare upland farm. A pure-bred flock of 200 Herdwick ewes, plus a flock of draft ewes crossed with Texel and Cheviot tups, graze both common and seasonal land, along with bought in young beef cattle for finishing which complement the sheep grazing. With his passion for nature and the countryside, Bob wants to continue incorporating more climate positive farming practices into his farming system. In addition, the lowland areas of the farm consist of peatland and Bob hopes to look into peatland restoration and find out more about what this means for net zero.

Huntapac- Technical Director, Stephen Shields, Lancashire

A family-owned business in its fourth generation, Huntapac farm 1300 hectares of primarily carrots and parsnips on land extending from Norfolk to Inverness. As a pioneering commercial producer, Huntapac are fully engaged in reducing their carbon footprint, from the first stages of production in the field, to packaging and distribution. They are committed to reaching their net zero targets and have developed their own net zero field trials, which will be an important focus of the project. Understanding and maintaining commercial viability whilst transitioning to net zero is a key objective of the business.

Alan, Graeme & Valerie Whyte - Springfields Farm, Northern Limpopo, South Africa

Situated in Northern Limpopo, South Africa, Springfield Farms is a family run business, comprising 2000 hectares of avocados, macadamia nuts, pecans, timber, and woodland. The Whyte family are passionate about environmentally friendly farming and have introduced a range of measures on farm to conserve and protect local wildlife and vegetation, with a particular focus on Integrated Pest Management (IPM). As a pro-active business, the Whyte’s want to make every effort to change their farming system and be a pioneer in their journey towards net zero, in a country with limited sustainable incentives and infrastructure.

Throughout the project, the participating farmers will be sharing their journey through on-farm events, training, workshops, and social media; showcasing their innovative farming practices, the challenges they are facing and the changes they are making to their farming systems- for the greater good of the planet.

Read the full press release here.

This project is supported by the Co-Op Foundation, through the Co-Op Foundation Carbon Innovation Fund.