All 37 farms participating in the study, carried out by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) found benefit from certification. Of these,
- 97% of those surveyed said LEAF Marque certification had helped secure access to new market opportunities;
- 23% reported receiving a price premium for their LEAF Marque-certified product;
- Certification helped farms qualify for other income streams, such as agri-environmental schemes;
- 36% reported significant extra income;
- LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management (IFM) principles were found to make operations more efficient in areas such as energy, soil, biodiversity, water and crop health;
- More than half of participants reported making energy savings of £10-17,000 per year via IFM;
- 66% reported increased biodiversity;
- 71% reported improved relationships with the public, through hosting farm visits, maintaining footpaths and having a strong social media presence;
- 47% reported an improved engagement with the wider agricultural sector.
LEAF sustainability manager Kathryn Green said: "This study shows that for many businesses the value of participating in the LEAF Marque assurance system reached beyond their initial motivations for joining, which were predominantly financial, and helped them develop their businesses in ways they had not previously considered."
Herefordshire soft fruit grower Anthony Snell, whose late father was on the founding board of LEAF, said: "We haven’t fundamentally changed anything because we are part of LEAF Marque. It is something that as a grower you understand - that you don’t want to cause soil compaction, you don’t want soil runoff. A lot of these are fundamental basic things that you as a responsible producer you do without being told."
He added: "All of these audits are good in a way because they raise standards - it does put our business in the UK above many competitors abroad. What we would like in a perfect world is one audit, and if that was LEAF that would be great. "The nice thing about LEAF is that it is a practical audit and it is very environmentally focused."