In our Hands – the ORFC screening

We’re delighted that ORFC 2018 will be hosting a screening of the beautifully shot and insightful documentary – In our Hands -  from the Landworkers’ Alliance and Black Bark Films.

The feature-length documentary profiles the emergence of a new generation of farmers who are outgrowing the industrial food system with a vision for post-Brexit food production that redefines our relationship with food.

Holly Black, from Black Bark Films told us: “We’re really excited to be bringing In Our Hands back to the Oxford Real Farming conference in 2018, having shown a 6 minute teaser last year. The teaser garnered some really positive and interesting feedback from the farmers, growers, land based workers and policy makers in the audience, and we’re really hyped to be able to bring the full completed documentary back to the same audience who showed us such support last year.”

  In our hands will be shown on Thursday 4 Jan, 5.15pm – 6.15pm in the Christopher Room. To see more of our evening entertainment on offer, go to: http://orfc.org.uk/orfc-2018/evening-entertainment/

Posted in Blog

Guest blog: Micro-dairying… the ‘Romantic Revolution’

Alex Heffron, from Mountain Hall Farm (Jersey micro-dairy), is speaking at ORFC 2018, on Thursday 4 January, 18:00-19:00 at Turl Street Kitchen: Big, small or not at all? The future of milk and dairy

From time-to-time dairying is forced into change. During the 19th century, due to the establishment of a rail network dairy farms became more easily connected to towns which led to a growth in the production and sale of fresh milk. The regions without rail links continued to focus on cheese and to this day remain strongholds of British cheese. We could even go all the way back to the 14th century and the period following the Black Death when much arable land was converted to pasture, subsequently leading to a growth within dairy farming – both cow’s and sheep’s milk.

As with all farming dairy must adapt to a range of diverse factors. Judging by the current decline in the number of dairy farms across Britain in the last 20 years we are going through another such change. The question is; how will dairy farmers respond?

On one end of the scale some decide to double-down and increase the size of their herds, aiming to produce milk more ‘efficiently’ and benefit from economies of scale. At the other end of the scale some, most likely those without a family farm, are turning to micro-dairying; small herds, focusing on quality over quantity and selling direct.Some choose to process the milk into e.g. cheese, whereas some, like my wife and I, choose to sell as raw milk.

Relatively low start-up costs and the manageability of a small herd for people with no farming background makes this an attractive option for many and it seems there is a mini-growth going on nationally with more micro-dairies springing up all the time.

To me it’s the ‘romantic revolution’ because it goes back to the way dairy farming always was until the industrialisation of food production. Cows known intimately by name and personality, a close relationship between producer and consumer, focus on traditional breeds, low input and cows out on pasture. At a time when milk is becoming increasingly derogatively known as ‘white water’ (even dairy farmers I’ve spoken to refer to it as such, when discussing the processed milk that reaches the supermarket) the return to a high-quality, unhomogenised and possibly unpasteurised milk is able to beat the trend of a downturn in milk consumption.

There is a lot of debate within the wider dairy industry about this downturn in milk consumption, particularly amongst young people, and all sorts of factors blamed but I’ve not yet heard anyone mention the flavour of milk.

Perhaps we now assume that milk just tastes like milk? If like me you were brought up on skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, quite simply why would you desire milk in your diet?

Repeatedly customers say to us they buy our milk because they love the rich flavour of unhomogenised, 100% pasture-fed, Jersey raw milk.People are quite often shocked by the depth of flavour. The milk from our cow Ruby, who produces the milk with the highest butter-fat (7.5%), is the milk that is snatched from the shelf first. I think it’s an interesting insight into just how commoditised and standardised milk has become that no-one within the wider dairy industry has considered that the flavour of milk might just be why less people are drinking it.

When you sell direct to your customer flavour is paramount. We’re asking them to pay a little bit extra, so we have to make that worth it. But it’s not just the flavour. People love coming to see our cows munching on pasture with their calves suckling and being able to give the girls a scratch. We sell the milk, thanks to the genius idea of Christine Page of Smiling Tree Farm, with the name of the cow the milk came from on the bottle. All of our customers seem to love this.

And this isn’t a cynical marketing ploy like supermarkets do when they brand their beef with the name of a fictitious farm. It’s genuine and people know that. That’s why it works. I’m not suggesting the only answer to the current dairy crisis is micro-dairying. I’m not saying it’s superior to other systems. I’m saying it’s a different way and one that particularly works for new entrants to farming like my wife and I. And who knows maybe the seditious idea that larger dairies could actually downsize and make more money isn’t entirely implausible?

Micro-dairying, without subsidy, can be a profitable, fulfilling farming enterprise that can support a decent living and way of life. Romanticism and realism combined – who can argue against that?

If you’re interested in learning more about the practicalities of micro-dairying then come along to the session at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference – learn more here.

Posted in Blog

Guest blog: The jeopardy and the opportunity – The Brexit Room at ORFC

Guest blog by Vicki Hird (@vickihird) and Kath Dalmeny (@kath_dalmeny), from Sustain: the Alliance for better food and farming

VickiHird

Vicki Hird, Campaign Coordinator, Food and Farming Policy, Sustain

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of Sustain

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of Sustain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit looms large over the agricultural sector, and the ORFC is no exception. The changes ahead look set to be seismic – for farmers and workers, for those in the food movement, for policy watchers, for policy makers and, clearly, for all of us as consumers.

Everyone is affected and there is still a high level of uncertainty. Some predict cliff edges and chaos ahead. Others see Brexit as presenting a way to help realise their dreams for food and farming policy and practice.

Sustain has worked with the ORFC organisers to design a series of seven Brexit Room sessions and debates, in a creative and structured way.

We want to avoid getting bogged down in confusion and the big emotions that can sometimes sweep us away – despair, hopes and dreams. Our purpose is to create a space in which we can share information and insights, have constructive debate, and gain clarity about what we should all be championing with policy-makers over the coming months.

Why is Sustain helping ORFC to play a stewardship role for the Brexit Room?

Since the referendum vote in 2016, the Sustain alliance has been running events, sharing intelligence and analysis on Brexit by and with its members and wider associates, with the public and with political audiences. This has helped keep the information flowing, and supported people to spread knowledge and use their influence in their own spheres. We have witnessed a great sense of common purpose, generosity, and a desire to influence the process to achieve the best possible outcomes.

In this same spirit, over the past few months, Kath Dalmeny and Vicki Hird of Sustain have been supporting the ORFC organisers to plan seven Brexit-themed sessions on issues important to farmers and others interested in the impact of Brexit for farming, farm workers and environmental policy and practice – addressing both the jeopardies and the opportunities.

The ORFC 2018 Brexit Room sessions are based on submissions of a range of ideas to ORFC from potential participants and contributors. The seven sessions will look specifically at how Brexit affects farming and everything connected to it.

We will aim to make these creative, informative and lively – with farmers, specialists and others sharing their experiences and knowledge of what may or may not lie ahead. Whether you are a ‘remainer’ or a ‘leaver’ matters not - we hope everyone will find them useful and relevant.

This will all be politically timely. ORFC 2018 follows a fraught Parliamentary session at the tail end of 2017 dominated by the European negotiations, the EU Withdrawal (Repeal) Bill, the new Trade Bill, possibly the much anticipated 25-Year Environment Plan, and possibly early sight of Government plans for a new UK Fisheries Bill. We also now have a possible new environment body to discuss - announced by Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove MP.

Most importantly for conference participants, the ORFC will be held just before the likely publication of the White (or Command) Paper on the UK’s new Agriculture Bill. Debates are already starting about what objectives and powers the new Bill should contain. Will it be CAP-Lite, or a more profound revolution in the way the Government approaches farm policy and subsidies?

At the ORFC, we will know something of what lies ahead, a bit about how we can engage and yet there are many unknowns. The ORFC will be an important moment for us all to take stock.

At the time of writing, six sessions will take place in the Assembly Room and one opening Brexit session in the Main Hall. The sessions range from a ‘State of play’ or ‘what-you-need-to-know-about-where-things-are-at-on-Brexit’ session, to one on the what public goods we would want to see supported in farm policy and what this means for global food sovereignty. There will also be what we are calling a “(De)regulation marketplace” to hear from a range of sector specialists on what standards and regulations are at risk, and which opportunities need exploring.

So, do take a look at the Brexit Room sessions. They may help if you are feeling a commonly reported tension between ‘desperation and aspiration’.

Our sessions aim to focus our minds; to be realistic about the (potentially dire) situation by painting an accurate and well-informed picture of the jeopardies; whilst also inspiring hope and a sense of possibility and optimism in the post-Brexit debate.

There are many dreams that people have had about what a good farm policy might look like – is this a chance for these dreams to be realised? We hope you will join us in the Brexit Room to debate these important issues.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The ORFC 2018 Programme is live!

We are excited to say that the programme for ORFC18 is live and it’s another great year of sessions for you all! You can check out the full range of sessions, debates and discussions on our programme page.

If that has whetted your appetite, then we recommend you buy your tickets as soon as possible, as we are selling fast this year. One important thing to note: if you want to attend one of the evening dinners, you can only buy your meal tickets at the time of purchasing your conference tickets.

And here’s Conference Manager Nessie Reid, with an overview of what you can expect – we’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Posted in Blog

Guest blog – Dead Zone: Where the wild things were

Guest blog from Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming

Philip Lymbery, CIWF Chief Exec

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming

Today, many wild animals face extinction. However, it’s not just the usual suspects – climate change and poaching – which are to blame. In fact, one of the biggest drivers of species loss worldwide is cheap meat from factory farms.

Wildlife is now disappearing 1,000 times faster than what scientists consider to be ‘normal’.

Indeed, there are two sides to factory farming. On the one, animals suffer as they are caged and confined on factory farms. On the other, wild animals are squeezed out of their homes as more and more land and water is given over to the production of cheap animal feed.

Take the Sumatran elephant. Down to their last 2,500, their forest homes are being destroyed to make way for intensive palm plantations. It’s not just about the palm oil ending up in so many biscuits, cosmetics and other products. It’s about the palm kernel, which is being used as cheap animal feed, fuelling factory farming and driving further deforestation.

Penguins are being pushed to the brink of extinction too, because we feed our factory-farmed animals the very same fish which make up the penguin’s diet. And jaguars in Brazil are left with nowhere to live and little to eat as monocultures of soya take over the land, once again destined to feed animals suffering on intensive farms.

Over the course of writing Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were, I’ve discovered that when we restore animals to the land in the right way – in well-managed, mixed rotational farms – amazing things can happen. Free-ranging animals on pasture can feel fresh air and sunshine, and carry out natural behaviours essential for their welfare. Soils start to regenerate. Wildlife can thrive again.

The planet is now at a dangerous tipping point where nearly half the world’s meat comes from industrial rather than mixed, extensive farms.

Helping to revive a living countryside can be as easy as choosing to eat less and better meat, milk, and eggs from pasture-fed, free-range or organic animals – with a cascade of positive benefits for the environment, wildlife, farm animals, and us.

Posted in Blog, Environment

Why have we raised the ticket price this year and why speakers need to buy tickets…

Ticket prices

Thanks to our sponsors and funders we have over the years been able to subsidise the cost of the conference tickets to delegates. This is a very important part of what ORFC is all about. We do not want anyone to be excluded because of the price. However, this year despite huge fundraising efforts by the ORFC team we will be unable to subsidise the ticket price by as much as last year.

The conference costs over £70,000 to organise.

Our fundraising will still enable us to subsidise the cost of the ticket by 45 percent but in order to cover our costs we have had to raise the ticket price by £10. This is something we have not done lightly and you can be sure that next year we will be looking again to do our best to raise more funds to secure the highest possible subsidy.

Speakers buying tickets

In order for the conference to go ahead, we need everyone – including speakers – to buy tickets. Some conferences are hundreds of pounds per head to attend, however we feel that if everyone buys a ticket, then it means more people – from varying income backgrounds – can come. We also feel that by speakers buying tickets, it moves away from an us-and-them approach of speaker and listener; but rather everyone is equally part of the conference, helping to create a sense of collective participation and camaraderie.

That said, we are always open to suggestions, particularly intelligent alternative-finance ones, so feel free to get in touch!

Nessie Reid

Posted in Uncategorized

ORFC’s Manager Nessie Reid gives us a peek into next years conference…

Conference Manager Nessie Reid fills us in on how the programme is shaping up in this sneak-peek video! Don’t forget, ORFC 2018 Tickets available here

Posted in Uncategorized

ART, FOOD AND FARMING: Call for artist in residence at ORFC 2018

Closing date: 7 November

Calling to all artists/musicians/poets/dancers interested in food, farming and the environment.

John Berger, the great art critic and writer allegedly said “The strange power of art is sometimes it can show that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them”. I believe art, in its broadest sense, can be an extremely powerful tool for conveying and sharing ideas and complexities that sometimes words cannot.

For ORFC 2018, the ORFC 218 team and I would like to invite an artist to be in residence over the conference period (4-5 January 2017). By ‘artist’ ,this can be anything from musician, poet, dancer, snake charmer (although not advised)… you name it. The successful applicant(s) will know by 07 November so you may wish to start your piece(s) in the lead up to the conference I.e. interview some farmers, the ORFC team members etc or just create something over the 2 days, to be presented at the closing plenary.

I am cautious to be too prescriptive about what we are looking for (as this is a piece of art, and not a policy document!) but we do ask that the central focus of the piece revolves around farming, food or broadly the environment.

Please send your application to me at: nessie@orfc.org.uk (Nessie Reid) by 7 November.

Your application can be anything you wish it to be – from a covering letter, to a video, to a phone call, to a dance (whatever your style). It just needs to clearly convey your idea/vision.

Unfortunately, we are not able to offer an official salary (although I wish we could) but we can offer a nominal fee of £200 to cover travel and expenses.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Nessie

Posted in Uncategorized

We’re back! Announcing the Call for Contributions for the 2018 Oxford Real Farming Conference

With only 6 months until the ORFC 2018 (how time flies!) we’ve begun pulling together an exciting programme for 2018… 
 
When we asked for your ideas this time last year, the UK had recently voted to leave the European Union. This time the Queen’s speech has informed us that a specific Agriculture Brexit Bill will be created, lobbied and debated during the coming parliament. We also know that Brexit will bring further uncertainty around issues including farm support, GM crops and agricultural imports.

Such troubled times call for new ideas and new thinking. And that is just what ORFC has and always will be about.
 
This year, we are looking for ideas for sessions around the following themes:

  • Farm Practice – new ideas and best practice in agroecological farming methods
  • The Big Ideas - what truly needs to be changed to bring about the Agrarian Renaissance
  • Growing and Supporting – ideas and initiatives to better support what we’ve got and grow the sector
  • The Brexit Room –we have a once in a generation chance to influence and shape food and farming policy
  • Food Sovereignty– ideas and best practice for building food sovereignty both in the UK and globally
  • Funding – ideas and best practice on finance that works for food and farming
  • Good Science, Good Research: What kind of science does “real farming” really need? What is actually being done?

If you have an idea for a session you would like to run along one or more of these themes then please send us the following information :
 

  1. A brief description of the session
  2. Who will chair it and other contributors that you hope to involve
  3. How you will engage the audience in your session

 
Session structure

This year we are really keen to move away from the lecture and panel discussion approach and engage all participants more in the discussions and debates. So, we are asking you not only to propose a session but to say how you will structure itNot in detail at this stage, but we want to know how you will engage your audience in your event.

Some subjects require a lecture/Q&A approach; but others don’t. We’d like to have a diversity of approaches and a diversity of speakers and chairs.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 4th August, 2017

Please send your ideas by email to me at: nessie@orfc.org.ukIf your session has been selected for inclusion you will hear from us in early September. Please note the ORFC is very popular and we get around 3 applications for each slot available. 


If you have not heard from us by the 15th September then unfortunately your session has not been selected.  

We really look forward to hearing from you,

 

Nessie Reid, ORFC Manager

nessie@orfc.org.uk

ORFC-web-banner-2018_screen-quality

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

ORFC 2017 content is now live

If you would like to relive the ORFC 2017, take a look at our photos here.

I am pleased to announce that all the PowerPoints and audio recordings from this year’s conference can be found in our 2017 Archive.

Nessie Reid, ORFC Manager

ORFC 2017 | Olivier De Schutter at our Opening Plenary

ORFC 2017 | Resilient food systems and climate change: the UK’s international role panel session

Posted in Uncategorized