FOOD SECTOR giant PepsiCo has announced plans to fund LEAF membership and marque certification for its 300-plus UK Quaker Oats farmers over the next two years.

The LEAF Marque is an environmental assurance system run by global farming organisation Linking Environment And Farming, which requires farmers to take a rigorous approach to delivering more sustainable farming. Through the principles of Integrated Farm Management, crops grown at LEAF Marque-accredited farms support an improved environment for biodiversity, soil health, water and air quality, alongside the production of quality food.

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As part of the new partnership, PepsiCo and LEAF will provide Quaker farmers – 75% of whom are within a 100-mile radius of the brand's Cupar Mill in Fife – with additional tools and support as they work towards becoming certified.

PepsiCo said that the investment would build on its existing progress in supporting healthier and more sustainable oat harvests across the UK. The Oat Growth Guide, launched in 2019 as part of the Opti-Oat Crop Intelligence programme, used over one million data points to provide growers with information to help optimise resources and improve yield.

Senior director of sustainability, Archana Jagannathan, said: “Quaker Oats has been in the UK since 1899 and has become a popular household brand. We’re working to innovate and optimise the way our crops are grown to save water, reduce carbon emissions and improve soil health, among other benefits. The expansion of our partnership with LEAF is an important step towards helping us achieve our Positive Agriculture goals. It’s an expansion of our existing efforts to embrace and pioneer regenerative British oat growing with our Quaker farming partners, supporting them to produce the best quality oats while protecting the earth.”

LEAF CEO, Caroline Drummond, said: “With COP26 bringing the crucial issue of tackling climate change into focus, farmers can play a key role in translating global and national ambitions into meaningful change on the ground.

“LEAF and Quaker share a commitment to helping farmers reduce their environmental impact through championing more sustainable, regenerative farming practices in the UK. By working together, we have a significant opportunity to deliver more sustainably-grown oats to consumers, while the industry plays its part towards reaching net zero and enhancing biodiversity.”

Matt Waldie is a fourth-generation farmer who manages Gilston Mains, a LEAF-accredited farm in Fife, Scotland, and has been growing Quaker oats for the past decade, close to the Cupar mill. He commented: “Growing Quaker Oats has always been a perfect match for our farm. The grain fits well into our crop rotation, and working with a local partner – only six miles away – means our crops barely have to travel before they are turned into the oats people enjoy every day.

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“Becoming LEAF Marque-certified was a big moment for us as it recognised the hard work we’ve put into making our farming practices more sustainable. It’s fantastic that all Quaker Oats growers are now being given the funding and support to optimise their production, while also protecting the soil and natural environment for future generations.”

As the certification process progresses, the LEAF Marque logo will start to appear on packs of Quaker Oats from 2023 across the country, giving consumers confidence in the more sustainable way their oats have been grown.