The Oxford Farming Conference has over 80 years of history of “Informing, challenging and inspiring”, as was the theme of this year. The conference started in 1936 as a force for positive change throughout the agriculture industry.
This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded an OFC 2023 Bursary to attend. Here are some of my highlights from day 2.
An early start
Day 2 of OFC 2023 was another early start, with The Prince’s Countryside Fund launching their Great Grazing Guide, focusing on smaller family-run farms, and suggesting innovative solutions to reduce dependence on the unsustainable and volatile price of inorganic fertilisers. There was an emphasis on improving the soil with herbal leys in pastures and moving animals around fields often to let grass rest. With plenty of practical steps laid out in plain, unadorned language.
Setting the tone for the day
The Day 2 session focused on taking responsibility – doing differently – leadership, inspiration, and personal responsibility for what’s next. Sir Charles Godfray asked: Is consensus on land still possible?
Sir Godfray laid out the facts of population increase and food consumption and made some shocking predictions. Urging us to move with these changes and adapt, “Within a decade, I think probably the majority of processed meat is going to be produced by non-animal sources – I don’t think it is something the industry can hide away from.” Statements like this have caused controversy but should not be seen as an attack on cattle production, but instead as an ongoing country-wide change in eating habits that agriculture must adapt to.
Disrupting global food politics
Disrupting global food politics, Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank, had a series of ‘demands’ in her manifesto.
- One, invest in women. She underlined the importance of including women in agriculture, creating the same opportunities that men enjoy globally; “Globally, women account for approximately 43% of the agricultural labour force, and in some countries, they make up nearly 70% of all farmers. Universally, women are not allowed access to the same resources and respect as their male counterparts”.
- Second, respect and honour Indigenous Peoples and people of colour in our food and agriculture systems.
- Thirdly, we must recognise what youth bring to the table.
- Fourth, we must utilise true value and True Cost Accounting in our food and agriculture systems.
- The fifth and final recommendation for this manifesto is that policymakers need to get their heads out of the sand. We need common sense law-making around food and agriculture.
After an inspiring talk by Samantha Kinghorn, MBE, Double Paralympic Medallist, on the benefits of resilience, it was time to go.
OFC left me with much to digest, not least the delicious food provided. OFC 2023 balanced highlighting the immense and looming challenge the agricultural industry faces in contributing to the fight against climate change as well as feeding over 8 billion people and the determination and hope exhibited by everyone present. I walked away inspired and enthusiastic about the future of agriculture. There were so many other excellent talks that I didn’t mention; there’s just not enough room!
I’ll echo Sir Tim to finish “Almost anything that’s happened of interest in history has come from rocking boats”.
Thanks again to the Oxford Farming Conference for awarding me a bursary to attend the event.