Chelsea Green @ ORFC 2019

9th December 2019

Chelsea Green have a stall at ORFC 2019 and have very kindly sponsored two of their authors, Eliot Coleman and Steve Gabriel, to fly over from the US to speak at the conference. Here they explain more about who they are, what they do, and how they are involved in ORFC…

Chelsea Green Publishing was founded in 1984, in the small rural state of Vermont, USA. We started as a family-owned business, publishing books that were both inspiring and practical, empowering people to improve their skills and educate themselves in farming, food, activism, sustainability and more. 35 years later, and Chelsea Green is an employee-owned company, working directly with authors who are not only talented writers, but practising their craft and making change in their own communities.

In 2018, we opened our London office, with the aim of bringing UK authors in farming, food and more onto our list, and helping our current authors and their books reach a British audience.

In a world where publishing is more and more consolidated, Chelsea Green has forged a path as a passionate, independent publisher, bringing practical, accessible expert content to people around the world.

We believe in supporting the farmers, growers and producers who can help shape a better food system and to publish books which inspire people to get their hands dirty and their minds engaged. As fans and supporters of the Oxford Real Farming Conference we’re hugely excited that two of our authors will be speaking and participating this year.

Eliot Coleman
Long-time organic farmer Eliot Coleman has been working with Chelsea Green since The New Organic Grower was originally published in 1989. We’re celebrating the newly updated 30th anniversary edition of this seminal book, and Eliot will be speaking at ORFC about his 50 years experience as an organic farmer, as well as participating in a special session on tool customisation, another area in which he is a renowned pioneer.



Steve Gabriel

We’re passionate about agroforestry and its potential to improve climate resiliency and diversify the way farmland is used. Chelsea Green author Steve Gabriel will be speaking first thing on day one about his work in silvopasture – the agroforestry practice that combines trees, animals, and forages. Steve will invite attendees to explore an approach to ecological farming that ranks among the best solutions to climate change, whilst providing an ethical and productive system for healthy livestock.

Book signings at ORFC
Chelsea Green will have book signings with both authors during the conference as well as a stall full of our best titles on regenerative and organic agriculture, permaculture, agroforestry, farm entrepreneurship and much more. All Chelsea Green titles will be 30% off for ORFC.

Other UK events for Eliot & Steve
Steve and Eliot also have a full schedule of events whilst they’re visiting the UK and we welcome you to attend any of the lectures, workshops, and public conversations that they are participating in. Please visit the Chelsea Green book stand to find out more.

Eliot’s UK Events

Eliot Coleman and Guy Singh-Watson in conversation on the future of organic farming.

Eliot Coleman and Iain Tolhurst in conversation.

Eliot Coleman at Glebelands.

Steve’s UK Events

Growing Trees in Grazing Systems.

Silvopasture for Climate Resiliency.

by Rosie Baldwin, Chelsea Green Publishers

Agricology @ ORFC 2019

7th December 2019

Agricology are very involved in the Oxford Real Farming Conference – they are a sponsor (without which we would not be able to host the conference and for which we are hugely grateful!) and along with the Soil Association and Pasture Fed Livestock Association are curating the Farming Practice strand of sessions at ORFC 2019. Here they explain more about who they are, what they do, and how they are involved in ORFC…



Agricology is a collaboration of farmers, researchers and advisers who are working towards a more resource efficient, resilient and profitable farming systems based on agroecology principles. We bring together the latest advice on transitioning to sustainable farming practices by sharing key learnings through online resources and events in the field. Each month we publish a farmer or grower profile showcasing the use of agroecology in practice to enhance their agricultural system; demonstrated through videos, images, ideas and practical tips. We also provide showcase guest blogs and research hubs for researchers to share what they are learning directly with the farming community and have a growing library of over 300 resources.

For practical tips and expert advice join the conversation @agricology or visit our website to learn more about putting agroecology into practice with our friendly community of farmers and researchers. We also run field based events and are active participants in many of our partner conferences – all details and content is shared on our website. Sign up to our newsletter for a round up of all our activities and resources.

At the Oxford Real Farming Conference we will be hosting the ‘Farm Practice’ room (Assembly Room and St Aldate’s Room) at ORFC19 along with our friends at the PFLA and Soil Association. Our focus will be on practical agronomy and putting agroecology into practice. Bringing together researchers and farmers to share their experiences with agroecological practices including intercropping, diverse leys and integrated pest management. Over the course of the two days they will be sharing practical tips and exploring a diverse range of topics in interactive talks, panel discussions and breakout sessions. For more information come along and join us!

Farm Practice Room Programme:

The first of these sessions will examine ‘intercropping in research and practices’ and how growing crops together presents opportunities for enhancing the resource use efficiency and resilience of cropping systems. The panel includes Cereal Pathologist Dr. Adrian Newton (James Hutton Institute), Dr. Charlotte Bickler and Katie Bliss (ORC) and Andy Howard (Bockhanger Farm). They will explore the potential of ‘plant teams’ in theory and practice, and share some of the practical findings from the Innovative Farmers and Diversify Field Lab. For more information on this topic visit our website and see other examples such as the potential for companion cropping and intercropping on UK arable farms or is intercropping the way forward for arable?

Another session will look at ‘managing pests biologically’ through an integrated approach, including improving our knowledge of pest lifecycles and integrating habitat to encourage their enemies. During this session Charlotte Rowley (AHDB), Richard Pyell (CEH) and Julian Gold (Hendred Farm) will share experiences and tips from their scientific and practical understanding to help us look to design pest resilient farming systems for the future. For more information on this topic visit our website and see other examples such as integrated pest management, the Sustainable control of crop pests or bringing in the bugs.

There will also be a session on ‘plants in the wrong place’ that focuses on Agroecological approaches to weed control – looking at including direct, cultural and biological control methods. Our speakers include weed biologist, Lynn Tatnell (ADAS) and plant ecologist Jonathan Storkey (Rothamstead Research) who will outline agroecological approaches to managing weeds with examples of some of the most troublesome arable and horticultural weed species. For more information on this topic visit our website and see other examples such as crop protection in reduced tillage systems, crop rotation and its ability to suppress perennial weeds or tackling the footprint of pests, weeds & diseases in our food system.

Our final session, ‘Ley of the land’, will delve into integrating leys in cropping systems for soil health. Many progressive farmers and growers are seeing the benefits of integrating leys into cropping systems – for weed management and soil health. The panel will include senior soil scientist Dr. Lizzie Sagoo (ADAS), Dr. Lydia Smith (NIAB) and Joe Howard (Little Morton Farm) who will together explore these benefits as well as the practical and financial implications from their research and experience in the field. For more information on this topic visit our website and see other examples such as rotational benefits of leys – looking to the future, herbal leys, the herbal ley farming system and using legume-based mixtures to enhance the nitrogen use efficiency and economic viability of cropping systems.

by Lydia Moore, Agricology

Press Release: ORFC celebrates its 10th year

The programme has just been released for the much-loved Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC), now in its tenth year. The 2019 conference will be the biggest yet – with more sessions, more delegates and an additional venue.

Taking place on 3-4 January 2019 in the Oxford Town Hall, the ORFC is open to all who are interested in working towards a more sustainable food and agricultural system, from farmers and growers to scientists and policy-makers.

As always, the conference features sessions on a wide range of important themes, from practical management to in-depth policy debates. As well as showcasing new techniques for best practice in agroecological farming, there will be broader discussions on what must happen to create real, worthwhile change in our food system. Speakers will include pioneering organic farmer Eliot Coleman; Vivien Sansour, founder of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library; and agroforestry expert, Steve Gabriel.

This year’s programme stands out with its timely discussions around key issues for the future of UK food and farming, including sessions on the Agriculture Bill and life after Brexit, a theme around public goods, including a debate on natural capital, and of course we don’t shy away from addressing controversial issues with a discussion about veganism and what constitutes a sustainable diet.

For practitioners there is a wealth of knowledge, with sessions exploring agroforestry, soil management, pasture regeneration, mulching, drought resilience, business advice and much more.

The conference delves into some hot topics, including honest food labelling, rewilding and problems of pollution, from chemicals to plastics. There’s also an emphasis around local food systems, with discussions on direct sales, box schemes, community supported agriculture as well as a session exploring how we can save local abattoirs.

And as always with ORFC we intersperse this with things not often covered by a farming conference! This year we’ve got singing, explorations of spirituality and empowering women.

Co-founder, Ruth West, said: “I’m looking forward to that moment when after all the preparation the doors finally open and the two days begin of debating, listening, learning; catching up on old friendships, making new ones. But while we celebrate our 10th and the growth in recognition and acceptance of the importance of ‘real’ farming aka agroecology, there’ll be a somber note to proceedings as we prepare for the inevitable challenges the year ahead will bring.”

Conference Manager, Tom Simpson, said: “It has been exciting putting together this year’s programme and the demand for tickets shows that the issues we are exploring are hugely relevant to people, 10 years after the first ORFC – maybe more than ever. There is a good balance between sessions organised by those who have been with ORFC from the start and new faces; there really is something for everyone. The addition of St Aldate’s Church as a conference venue will mean that there is lots of space for the networking and chats that go on between sessions, which are just as important as the stuff in the programme.”

All tickets for ORFC 2019 are now sold out. The programme can be viewed here:

The ORFC would like to thank the following funders, sponsors and partner organisations, without whose support this event would not be possible: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Riverford, Compassion in World Farming, Lush, A-Team Foundation, the Soil Association, Agricology, Cotswold Seeds, Triodos Bank, Landworkers’ Alliance, the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association and Sustain.

To apply for press accreditation and for any interview requests, please contact:

ORFC 2019 Call for ideas

11th July 2018

We are just six months away from ORFC 2019 – the 10th anniversary of the conference. 

ORFC logo

ORFC is an annual gathering which brings together practicing mud-on-the-boots farmers and growers with scientists, economists, activists, and anyone else with a keen interest in food sovereignty, agriculture and everything in between. It offers a mix of practical and on-farm advice, new techniques for best practice in agroecological farming, discussions around our global food system and the economic and trade policies that affect British farming and much more. As always, the success of the conference is down to those that attend and we want to continue to put you are the heart of everything we do. 

Therefore, we are looking to you for the following: 

1. Proposals for sessions  

By proposing a session you are committing to taking on the bulk of its organising; we will want to know how the sessions will be chaired, who the speakers will be and how the audience will be engaged and encouraged to participate in the session. 

2. Ideas for speakers / topics / themes you’d like to feature at ORFC 2019 

We are looking at exploring new formats for ORFC 2019. Perhaps you don’t feel able to organise a session but would still like to let us know about someone you’ve heard speak who has inspired you, or suggest a particular topic that you would like to explore at ORFC 2019. Whatever you would like to feature at ORFC 2019, please get in touch and let us know.  

3. Thoughts on how we can celebrate the 10th anniversary of ORFC 

We feel the 10th anniversary is a chance to celebrate ORFC and everything that is good in real farming. We have some thoughts but we would welcome your ideas on how we should celebrate.  

We are hugely thankful to everyone who gets back to us about the conference. However, we receive many more responses to this annual email than we are able to honour and will only be able to take a select few proposals through to the conference.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 10th August 2018 Friday 24th August 2018 and we look forward to hearing from you. Please send your ideas by email to  

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your idea with us before making a submission then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Tom Simpson – ORFC Manager  

Work for us! ORFC Conference Manager job opportunity

2019 will be our 10th anniversary.  So a special year for us – as well as the whole farming community as we face Brexit! And a huge opportunity for a Conference Manager to oversee a programme that can take us into this new era.

The deadline for applications has now passed.

New ORFC 2018 video resources available

Hello friends!

We are delighted to say that in addition to our comprehensive audio archive from ORFC 2018, we are now able to add four, full-length videos from our sessions.

Great thanks to Zoe Broughton who undertook this additional filming and editing for us.

DAY ONE – Brexit: the state of play – do we know what’s coming over the horizon?


DAY ONE – ORFC 2018 Full plenary Q&A session with Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP


DAY ONE – Whatever is happening to the world’s insects?


DAY TWO – Civil disobedience and policy change

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:

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.

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


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.


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!