Ensuring farming is well placed in the battle against escalating healthcare challenges, such as obesity and diabetes, will become a key focus for Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf) going forward.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Leaf chief executive Caroline Drummond said while flying the flag for environmentalism within agriculture was still crucial for the organisation, it was time to extend its remit even wider.
And with so many farmers having come on board with the environmental agenda with the help of schemes such as Entry Level Stewardship, Leaf is keen to build on successes such as Leaf Marque and Open Farm Sunday.
Mrs Drummond said: “We now see opportunities to position our work differently. We want to focus on obesity and non-communicable diseases linked to diet.
“Agriculture is not around the table in this debate and we need to be part of the solution for better health and make sure farming businesses are recognised for their values in terms of health.
“Farming is not just about commodity production but also promoting enhanced nutrition through breeding mechanisms.”
Pointing to examples around the world, such as rice being bred with enhanced levels of vitamin A, Mrs Drummond claimed there were huge health benefits which could be built in at farm-level which could benefit both producers and consumers.
She added: “Some people pay as much for Sky TV and mobile phone contracts as they do for food. They value these things, but do they value what goes into growing a beef animal or making a loaf of bread? The answer is no.”
With Open Farm Sunday and the Leaf Marque both major successes for the organisation over the past 25 years, Mrs Drummond said building on these was important.
She added: “We have had 1.6 million people attend Open Sunday Farm over the past 10 years and last year 81 per cent said they learnt something about the industry. We need to build on their interest in food and farming and pick up with them after the day.”