“If you just take and take and take from the land, it doesn’t give you anything back,” Matt says. “You have to adapt and change.” He did just that, teaming up with three other LEAF members in the U.K. to form a cooperative to share ideas and spread sustainable practices across all four farms. As a result, the crop quantity and quality across his family’s 500 acres have improved; his costs have gone down; and he’s seen positive impacts on the environment while working toward LEAF Marque-certification.
If you just take and take and take from the land, it doesn’t give you anything back. You have to adapt and change.
LEAF Marque is environmental standard set by global organization LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) that requires farmers to take a rigorous approach to operating more sustainably — in ways that support improved biodiversity, soil health, and water and air quality. PepsiCo recently committed to supporting more than 300 Quaker Oats farmers in the U.K. to achieve LEAF Marque certification over the next two years, funding memberships and offering the tools and data they need to enhance their sustainable growing practices.
These practices focus on regenerative agriculture — sourcing crops and ingredients in ways that protect and restore the earth’s resources. This supports PepsiCo’s goal to spread regenerative practices across 7 million acres of land by 2030 as part of its pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) transformation, which puts sustainability at the core of the company’s actions. The LEAF Marque logo will start to appear on packs of Quaker Oats in the U.K. in 2023, letting consumers know that the product they’re buying was grown sustainably.
“Farmers around the globe are playing a key role in translating global and national environmental ambitions into meaningful change on the ground,” says Caroline Drummond, CEO of LEAF. “By working together, we have a significant opportunity to deliver more sustainably grown oats to consumers.”
Matt has seen that in action. His involvement in the farming cooperative inspired him to shift away from conventional plowing and tilling methods. Their process for growing Quaker Oats now begins with what is known as a cover crop, like radishes or clovers. These fertilize the soil and allow Matt to use a drill to plant oat seeds without plowing, which releases carbon emissions and can damage soil structure. The benefits have been wide-ranging, and not just for business. The process is three to four times faster and uses a fraction of the fuel. The cover crops increase biodiversity by attracting birds and bees, and act as a natural herbicide by protecting the budding oats. Matt has observed a noticeable improvement in the health of the soil.
Those results are what motivated Matt to seek LEAF Marque-certification. He’s eager to see more Quaker Oats farmers follow in his footsteps. “LEAF is a great initiative to be a part of because it makes you think outside the box and encourages you to try different things,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to make upgrades that are beneficial to the farm and the environment.” And LEAF does more than establish standards; the organization builds communities, too, with networking events where farmers can meet with each other and share experiences and ideas.
The benefits are invaluable in the present, but Matt is also thinking about the impact they could make in the years to come. “I’ve got two daughters. I’d like to leave my ground in better condition than I got it from my father,” Matt says. “It’s fantastic that Quaker Oats growers are now being given the support to optimize their production, while also protecting the soil and natural environment for future generations.”