What’s in store for the ORFC 2017?

Trying to decide the ORFC 2017 programme content felt like no mean feat these past few months. Since July, I have received three times more session proposals than what the conference programme can accommodate.

Whilst I found the process of rejecting sessions an unpleasant experience, the sheer volume highlighted just how much brilliant work people are doing in UK food and farming and maybe the solution is to make the 2018 conference a week-long!

It also made me question: how do we use the ORFC platform as a space for really galvanising action and bringing people together not just for the conference, but for the whole year round? Thoughts most welcome.

The 2017 conference will follow the usual three strands of Farm Practice, New Entrants, New Ideas and The Big Ideas, with no doubt many themes overlapping and feeding into the other.

The first involves a number of practical farming sessions which span the board from Nurturing nature within farming, to Low stress handling of animals to companion cropping to Livestock in the arable rotation, to Is organic really healthier to Improving livestock health using a homeopathic approach and everything else in between.

New Entrants, New Ideas involves sessions relating to reshaping agriculture and for those wishing to enter or remain (and thrive) in the sector, such as The case for microdairies, A community farm for every community, Real farm trials: low cost, practical research to help your farming business to Using social and eco-logical systems theory to build resilient local food networks. These sessions are designed around creating pioneering solutions for the next generation of farmers.

Mutterings around what Brexit might mean for UK farming seem to be on hot on people’s lips at the moment. Coupled with Trump’s latest victory, 2016 has been – in my mind – a somewhat crazy year for shaking the political ground beneath our feet.

Thus I feel The Big Ideas sessions are certainly going to stir up some interesting debate this year. Whilst I do not want it to become a Brexit conference, it cannot be ignored and I believe the ORFC can be a powerful space for discussing and determining the type of agricultural policies we – as civil society at large – should be calling for.

Friends of the Earth are leading the session Livestock post Brexit whilst the Land Worker’s Alliance lead A place at the table: democratic food governance and grassroots policy making, delving into what a people’s food policy might look like and what the barriers and opportunities are for realising it. Public money for public good: valuing farm subsidies from different perspectives led by Sustain will examine where the public subsidy should be spent for our health, nature and economy whilst Farming outside the CAP – perspectives on British farming after Brexit explores the threats and opportunities that Brexit holds for small-scale and family farms in the UK.

There are so many more fascinating sessions I’d like to speak about and include here, but much better if you come and along in January and experience them for yourselves!

Video: Get an early insight into the ORFC17 programme

To view the provisional programme, visit here.

See you then,


Nessie Reid, ORFC Manager, 25 November 2016 (email: nessie@orfc.org.uk)