Has ‘alternative farming’ become the mainstream?

As the Oxford Real Farming Conference gears up for its tenth year, the very values that set it apart from the Oxford Farming Conference, have also seen it soar in popularity over the last decade.

Taking place on 3-4 January 2019 in the Oxford Town Hall and St Aldate’s Parish Centre and Church, the 2019 Oxford Real Farming Conference will be the biggest yet. The conference – which had to take on additional venues this year to accommodate demand and long waiting lists over the last two years – sold out of tickets in December, and is set to welcome 1000 delegates, with hundreds more on the waiting list.

Tom Simpson, ORFC Conference Manager said: “We’re so delighted to see that enthusiasm for the Oxford Real Farming Conference growing year after year, and believe it reflects the changing mindset in what good farming, food production and land stewardship looks like. The status quo is rightly being challenged.”

This year’s programme tackles key issues that have dominated news headlines over the past year, such as the Agriculture Bill and life after Brexit, rewilding and problems of pollution – from chemicals to plastics – and how farmers can become more resilient in the face of climate change.

ORFC co-founder Ruth West, said: “During these uncertain times, we find that agroecology increasingly offers some certainty in how you manage your land and business. Its power lies in the ability to tackle problems holistically and proactively, as well as providing some vital resilience in the face of shocks like extreme weather or Brexit-related impacts on supply chains.”

Practical sessions are always a key part of the conference and this year some timely skills are being explored, including agroforestry, soil management, pasture regeneration, mulching, drought resilience, business advice and more.

Tom added: “We have our usual diverse crowd of delegates, which is made up of around 50% mud on the boots farmers, and a mix of activists, food producers, and new entrants. We have 240 speakers – of whom more than half are women – and over 100 sessions. We’re celebrating our tenth birthday in style.”

The conference 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.

-ENDS-

For more information and interviewees, please contact: press@orfc.org.uk or

Katharine Mansell – 07814 455639 / Megan Perry – 07761 80434

NOTES FOR EDITORS

QUOTES AND ORGANISATIONS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW:

  • Simon Crichton, Food, Farming and Trade Team Manager, Triodos Bank UK: “2019 could herald landmark progress on the journey to put sustainability at the heart of food and agricultural policy. We hope to see more pioneering work across the organic, biodynamic and sustainable sectors in terms of continuous improvement, innovation and diversity – all work that Triodos Bank will be proud to support. The Oxford Real Farming Conference brings us all together to explore these ideas across a varied and inspiring line-up of sessions and debates.”
  • Robert Reed, Project Manager, A Team Foundation: “The energy of the Oxford Real Farming Conference carries you through the year. It galvanises the movement and therefore, plays an important part as we change the food system for good”.
  • Liz Bowles, Head of Farming, Soil Association: “The Oxford Real Farming Conference is always a fantastic and inspiring way to start the year, a coming together of likeminded people interested in working towards a more sustainable food and agricultural system. But with continued uncertainties over the impact of Brexit on food and farming and the ever-looming crisis of climate change, this year’s conference feels more urgent—and necessary—than ever. The Soil Association is proud to support the 10th Oxford Real Farming Conference and to help make this important event happen.”
  • Caroline Mason, CEO, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation: “The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation is very proud to support the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2019, and it seems important that we do so at a time of heightened interest in the future of food and farming in the UK.  We’re delighted that the conference attracts such expert speakers and session leaders from across the spectrum of sustainable food and farming interests, and we’re confident that the conference offers something for everyone in terms of learning. But,  as importantly, we recognise the value of the conference as a unique convening and networking event, bringing committed and inspiring people together to consider and debate some of the most important issues of our time.”
  • Jim Twine, Managing Director, Organic Herb Trading Company: “We volunteered to sponsor the Oxford Real Farming Conference for three fundamental reasons. Firstly, unlike many other conferences it is not a talking shop – it is a conference of tangible outcomes and the art of the possible. Secondly, everyone is made to feel very welcome – which must be vital at a time when we need unity more than ever. And lastly, the conference is now leading the policy debate in terms of the future of food and farming the UK and beyond.”

Conference quick links:

ORFC funders, sponsors and partners:

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.

About the Oxford Real Farming Conference (www.orfc.org.uk):

In 2009, agricultural writer Graham Harvey (now of Pasture Promise TV) invited Colin Tudge and Ruth West (founders of the Campaign for Real Farming) to help establish a new kind of farming conference. The conference, first held in 2010 as a much-needed alternative to the concurrently-running Oxford Farming Conference, provides an innovative environment for some radical discussions on some of the biggest issues facing our society today. ORFC delegates are those from across food and farming, with an interest in new agricultural models. They represent those who are interested in meeting global food system challenges in original, environmentally sustainable ways. The point of the ORFC is not simply to challenge the status quo but to look ahead — to ask what the world really needs, and what really can be done.