LEAF is the apt green acronym of the charity Linking Environment and Farming. In a good year, it welcomes more than 9,000 visitors to 48 show farms in England and Scotland.
This, of course, has been anything but a good year for farmers. Foot and mouth has left parts of the countryside devastated. Nearly all visits to LEAF's farms have been cancelled, at a time when it has never been more important to hear the message of sustainable, environmentally-friendly farming.
LEAF was founded ten years ago to promote farming practices that take account of the consumer and the countryside as well as the farmer's need to run a profitable business producing affordable food. LEAF farmers demonstrate that it is possible to farm for profit and for wildlife. Their fields have hedgerows rich in flowers and birds, and their ponds are free of pollutants.
LEAF aims to have one farm within easy reach of everyone - though at the moment most are on the eastern side of the country - and for visits to be part of primary education and teacher training. A number of show farms have reopened since the foot and mouth crisis. It is hoped that by the end of the year most will be welcoming visitors again.
In the meantime, LEAF has produced a CD-Rom, Your Virtual Farm Walk, to give a taste of a real visit. LEAF farmer David Johnson takes users on a guided tour of a typical environmentally-aware farm. Birds sing in the background as Mr Johnson explains how he balances farm management with care for the countryside, through seed selection and crop rotation, good husbandry and animal welfare practices and looking after wildlife habitats.
He communicates his enthusiasm and commitment to farming, whether he is introducing livestock or showing off some replanted woodland or piece of machinery.
Athough nothing can replace a real farm walk and the experience of the countryside, the virtual tour will whet the appetite and introduce the arguments for environmentally responsible agriculture.
Contact Linking Environment and Farming The National Agricultural Office Stoneleigh, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ Tel: 02476 413911Email: email@example.comWeb: www.leafuk.org For details of farm visits, contact Roly Puzey. Visits are free and last 2-3 hours For 'Your Virtual Farm Walk' CD-Rom send a cheque payable to LEAF for pound;5 (inc postage).