L-r: Lucy Redmore, Technical Coordinator, LEAF; Deborah Whitfield, Consultancy Manager, HIWWT; Leah Mathias-Collins, Environment Manager, Vitacress; Ben Rushbrook, Senior Ecologist, HIWWT.

Salad leaf and herb growers Vitacress has teamed up with LEAF Marque to create a new Vitacress Farm Excellence sustainability programme.

Launched on World Environment Day, last week on June 5th, the new programme heralds a “unique collaboration” between Vitacress, LEAF Marque and also the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT).

Vitacress Farm Excellence with LEAF Marque certification is an outcome-based approach to measuring environmental improvements through ecological appraisals and surveys, individually tailored conservation management plans and bespoke LEAF Sustainable Farming Review Reporting with KPIs and action plans for continuous improvement.

The new programme will ensure that Vitacress’ farming techniques across leaf crop, protected growing and aquaculture are taken to the next level in sustainable farming and are ready for the new agricultural and environmental legislative changes that are coming.

Vitacress is a leading European supplier of salads, watercress and herbs, and has previously funded the study of growing watercress more sustainably, with a PhD project at the University of Southampton, and the University of California, Davis.

Lucy Redmore, technical coordinator at LEAF said: “Vitacress Farm Excellence is an exemplary demonstration of a company making a firm commitment to the delivery of more sustainable farming, including water, energy and waste management, pollution control, crop health and protection as well as community engagement.

“We are delighted to be working together as part of this unique collaboration which drives forward a food and farming system that encourages nature and landscapes to thrive and helps farmers adapt to the changing environmental landscape”.

Ahead of the programme launch, HIWWT have worked with Vitacress to produce a baseline ecological audit and the programme partners will work together in 2020 to develop conservation plans for each site based on recommendations from the audit.

Over 2020, LEAF will develop bespoke reporting, with KPIs and action plans for continuous improvement, building conservation plans into the wider IFM (Integrated Farm Management) approach.

Leah Mathias-Collins, Vitacress environment manager, who pioneered the new programme, said: “This approach will help us to ensure the sustainability of the natural resources on which we depend and play our part in addressing the ecological and climate crisis. The Vitacress scheme is unique in the working partnership between key experts in their fields.”

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) is the leading conservation body across the two counties. The Trust said it is proud to partner with Vitacress on the Farm Excellence programme in line with their Wilder strategy to promote sustainable farming and nature’s recovery. Arcadian Ecology and Consulting is a wholly owned subsidiary of HIWWT who have worked with Vitacress Farm Excellence to provide professional ecological and farm advice.

Martin de Retuerto, HIWWT director of projects and services, said: “We’ve shared a journey with Vitacress for nearly fifteen years. Through a number of initiatives Vitacress have invested considerably in both research and conservation programmes. The Vitacress Farm Excellence standard is the next step on their journey, raising the bar for others, while providing the opportunity for their business to contribute the recovery of wildlife in the broader landscape.”