The School of Sustainable Food & Farming: nurturing sustainable success

Environment and climate
Two people walking across a vineyard

Powered by Harper Adams University, the School of Sustainable Food & Farming is an exciting partnership with a vision to help educate, inspire and empower current and future farmers to achieve sustainability goals.

In 2021, Harper Adams University, the NFU, Morrisons and McDonald’s, created this non-exclusive collaboration for knowledge sharing to empower farmers to produce nutritious, tasty, British food sustainably.

The School is a trusted source of information, research and learning for farmers and the wider food industry, to support with navigating the road to net zero and sustainable farming.

It aims to diversify new entrants to the industry, upskill current farmers and food industry colleagues, work towards improved systems and farm data sources, develop research and work collaboratively with policy makers to support the transition to a more sustainable food production system.

School of Sustainable Food and Farming logo founded by Harper Adams, Morrisons, McDonalds and the NFU

“Being part of the school means you’re influencing in this space – sharing a common language and through the work of the NFU it means we can align on the key messages to government,” said NFU Net Zero Policy Delivery Manager Kate Bannister.

“This influencing work is the very nature of being involved with the School.”

How can the school help farmers?

The school offers a unique range of courses and workshops designed by experts in sustainable farming and food production at Harper Adams, as well as by delivery partners from the industry and the wider supply chain.

Alongside expanding the industry’s knowledge of the environment, animal welfare, and positive farming relationships, the school strives to develop the skills needed in our sector to produce food.

“Agriculture is already making great strides, but we must continue to support and grow our knowledge and understanding – we created the school to address the challenge of transition and think about how can we get agriculture reducing more emissions and enhancing nature,” Simon Thelwell, Strategic Director of the School explained.

The School is underpinned by four core pillars:

Pillar 1: New talent

Pillar 1: New talent

Champions career opportunities in food and farming, attracting a new generation of forward-thinking individuals to the industry.

Pillar 2: Upskill

Pillar 2: Upskill

Provides education and training to ensure the existing workforce remains at the forefront of sustainable practices.

Pillar 3: Research

Pillar 3: Research

Works with academia and industry to find solutions to industry challenges.

Pillar 4: Influence

Pillar 4: Influence

Engages with policymakers to raise awareness of the school and for government support for sustainable farming practices.

Sustainable Farm Network

“The journey towards sustainable food production has begun,” Simon said.

“What we need now is national coordination of demonstration farms to share and develop our knowledge – a network of networks. Together we’ll create an exemplar for the UK and the World.”

Launching this summer, the School in, collaboration with Landex, has founded the SFN (Sustainable Farm Network) to connect farm demonstration networks across the UK.

The SFN offers a platform to share innovation, research findings and best practice across the network to tackle the challenging issues relating to sustainability and the overall transition.

Get involved

The School is a key resource to help support you on your journey to climate-friendly agriculture and to improve business resilience.

Over the past two years, the school has delivered for farmers and the supply chain by convening industry research, launching future farmer programmes, coordinating the Sustainable Farm Network, running online training webinars, and facilitating debates.

Strength in partnership

Retailers and food processors engaging with farming communities and individual farms have a lot of knowledge to share. A primary aim of the School is to make this support and advise accessible for the whole industry.

In November, the NFU food business unit and climate change team organised the first prospective delivery partner event with the School at Stoneleigh.

Supply chain stakeholders were invited to understand more about how they can invest in the School to support their sustainability ambitions.

Guests included delegates from Greene King, Coop, Yeo Valley and Cranswick. The event successfully raised awareness and a number of attendees have signed up to invest in farmer programmes and offer support to share learnings of supply chain activities.

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