Alastair Leake

Job Title: 

Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Agricology Executive Board Member

My passion for agriculture stems from my love of plants. This took me from my childhood vegetable patch on the outskirts of Glasgow to study Horticultural Science at the University of Reading. Afterwards I worked at a vegetable research station, a hot-house ornamental plant nursery and then as Production Manager of a 12 acre heated glasshouse salad nursery. Over ten years we reduced pesticide usage by 90% using biological control methods. I was invited to achieve similar results on 50,000 acres of farmland which was very challenging and led me to explore Integrated Crop Management. At this time I inherited a farm-scale trial of organic farming rotations which proved hugely helpful in developing practical techniques for pest, disease and weed management.

When the Head of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Allerton Project position became vacant a perfect opportunity presented itself. GWCT specialised in maximising contributions of uncropped areas to biological control, while my expertise lay in minimising the impact of the cropped area on the environment.  By combining these experiences we developed a holistic approach to production that maximises yields and biodiversity whilst minimising environmental impacts.

I am painfully aware that individual efforts have limited impact. Ideally all farmers need to think in a more holistic way. With this in mind GWCT, together with BASIS, launched the BASIS Certificate in Conservation Management, the first professional environmental qualification for the UK agricultural sector. Running training courses requires on-farm facilities, so we applied for an EU Grant to transform an abandoned cattle shed into an Eco-Training Centre. This won us the Property & Construction’s Sustainable Building of the Year Award in 2012. This constitutes my greatest achievements to date.