Opinion

Inspiring young people about fresh produce

12 September 2017

Carl Edwards_LEAF_07.17.1

Today’s consumer landscape has left many young people disconnected from, and confused about, where their food comes from and all the work that goes into growing and producing it. As the world has become increasingly digitalised, young people in particular are moving further away from experiencing and understanding the natural world. Reversing this generational decline can offer significant social and economic benefits to everyone, not just the farming industry.

At LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) we are committed to improving the connection everyone has with farming and all that it delivers. Our recent merger with FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) will further strengthen our vision to create a world that is farming, eating and living sustainably.

The Benefits to Young People

Helping young people understand the story behind the fruit and vegetables they consume on a regular basis can deliver a host of benefits. Fuelling young people with the knowledge and confidence to make informed food choices, through farm visits and educational resources, can have a long-term and positive impact on their diet.

The very nature of fresh produce means that it is often harvested and in-store within hours and with minimal steps in between. With 34% of UK produced fruit and vegetables grown on LEAF Marque certified businesses, this is a sector that is committed to producing good food sustainably.

This positive story is one we need to share with young people - the consumers of tomorrow.

By informing them about the story behind their food we can positively influence their future food buying decisions and help them understand that the choices they make can have profound environmental consequences.

We need young people to take a proactive approach to choosing foods like fruit and vegetables that have been grown sustainably, not just for their own health, but for the health of the planet.

LEAF works to help engage and educate the public about food and farming in a number of ways.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday, offers the opportunity for everyone to visit a working farm to learn all about food production. In addition, Open Farm School Days is a nationwide initiative to get children out onto farms and learning about how their food is grown and where it comes from.

Both these initiatives enable young people to see at first-hand how their food is produced and the positive impact farming has on the environment.

Over the last decade the reach of LEAF Open Farm Sunday and Open Farm School Days has increased year-on-year. To date, more than two million people have visited a farm and the feedback we receive is always extremely positive.

Our recent merger with FACE is enabling us to build on our public engagement activities and the vital work FACE already does in taking agriculture into schools.  

Through the training of teachers and farmers, advising industry on the code of practice and leading the online resource portal ‘Countryside Classroom’, huge numbers of young people have already benefitted.  

We are now looking to create systemic changes in education and public engagement provision in farming by building on the combined strengths of both our organisations.

Benefits for businesses

Educating young people about where their food comes from can offer strong business benefits - these are, after all, the consumers of the future who will soon be making food purchasing decisions for themselves, and their families too.  

Encouraging them to question where their food comes from when making purchases creates a demand for sustainably produced food, identified by assurance labels such as the LEAF Marque.

Growers already report the benefits to their businesses in being LEAF Marque certified. Earlier this year CCRI (The Countryside and Community Research Institute) carried out independent research into the financial, environmental and social benefits of LEAF Marque certification for farms.

The research showed that the benefits for businesses were significant and for many, the value of participating in the LEAF Marque assurance system reached beyond their initial motivations for joining.  

Key highlights from the research included:
- 97% of LEAF Marque businesses surveyed reported that LEAF Marque certification had helped secure access to new market opportunities
- 36% reported significant extra income
- 66% reported increased biodiversity
- 71% reported improved relationships with the public
- Nearly one in four reported receiving a price premium for their LEAF Marque certified product

The LEAF Marque assurance system guarantees strong environmental standards and is based on the principles of LEAF Integrated Farm Management (IFM). It covers a broad range of areas including soil and water management, pollution control, crop health, animal welfare, community engagement, energy efficiency and landscape and nature conservation.

By increasing understanding amongst young people of what farmers are doing to produce food sustainably, and raising the profile of the LEAF Marque logo, we are driving forward demand for sustainably produced food.  

An understanding of the story behind where their food comes from can help people consider the product story and value, as well as make purchasing decisions based on factors other than price. The current public demand for transparency and provenance provides us with a fertile base to build our work on.

Ultimately, helping people make changes to the way they think about and engage with their food has to start in schools – and the agriculture industry has a major role to play in supporting this.

By providing inspiring educational resources, reaching out to farmers and teachers through training initiatives, and offering opportunities for everyone to visit a farm, we can start to build understanding about food production which will lead to more sustainable food choices and ultimately a healthier planet. 

Produce Business UK welcomes letters to the editor and other input from the industry. If you wish to respond to an article on Produce Business UK or join the conversation on any industry issue, please send your thoughts to [email protected]

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