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21 December 2021

A Solstice message

ORFC Conference Director Francesca Price delves into the exciting line-up for ORFC 2022 in January

Only two weeks to go until #ORFC22 begins!

The online programme now has over 135 sessions which we realise can be a little difficult to navigate, especially when you’re all winding down for your holidays. So on the darkest day of the year, I hope I can shed a little light on the incredible line up we have planned for January 5th, 6th and 7th, so you can be as excited as we are!

I encourage you all to log onto the Whova Platform well before the conference. This way you can earmark the sessions you like the look of and start to create your own personal schedule. Once the conference starts, you might feel a little overwhelmed for choice as there will be 14 different sessions starting at any one time during the day. This is the result of moving an in-person conference, with five separate venues around Oxford, online, at the last minute; but at least you can take comfort in not having to rush between them all!

The majority of the programme is UK-focussed and you’ll have the opportunity to hear from farmers, food producers, activists, academics and leaders right across the real food and farming movement. Four of our partners have programmed rooms this year so you’ll find a fantastic selection of farm practice sessions in the Assembly Room, thanks to the Soil Association and Pasture for Life, as well as right across the conference in the Main Hall, the Long Room, the Court Room and the Ship Street Centre.

Two speakers who were going to be with us in person, but will now present from their homes in the US, are author and rancher, Nicolette Hahn Niman – see her session on Why Animals Matter – and author and grower, Jesse Frost, who will be talking about designing a No Till System.

The Landworkers’ Alliance also have a great programme in the Old Library focussing on food sovereignty, local supply chains and women’s leadership in regenerative agriculture. Their session – Getting On With Agroforestry! Learning From Experience And Working Together To See More Agroforestry In The UK – is one of six sessions on agroforestry across the programme this year. Check out the other presentations from the Organic Research Centre, Woodland Trust and the incredible team at Wakelyns, the oldest agroforestry site in the UK.

Other hot topics this year include soil, climate, biodiversity, local food systems, sustainable diets and of course, plenty on agroecology as a science and movement as well as an on-farm practice. There are also sessions that further explore regenerative systems like organic, permaculture and biodynamics which are worth watching out for. Whatever your specific interest you are likely to find it here; we have sessions on everything from hedgerows to peatlands, bees to dung beetles, hemp to mushrooms and flowers to sustainable fashion.

New partners, Land in Our Names (LION) and Shared Assets have brought together a radical and incredibly diverse programme for the Link Room with speakers who will explore land, racial and social justice in food and farming. Author, Corinne Fowler will be talking to LION’s Sam Siva, about Land Race and History in the Main Hall while our other new partner, Schumacher College, has programmed several more sessions including Growing Food as a Spiritual Practice and others which focus on indigenous practices around soil health and community wellbeing.

ORFC has always been a place for people to discuss how to understand and influence agricultural policy. This year, despite being online, is no different and you’ll be able to attend interactive sessions on Environmental Land Management (ELMS), run by Sustain and others, as well as what is needed to achieve a pesticide-free future. There is also plenty for newcomers to the conference, whether you’re attending as someone who is simply interested in food – check out the talk The Pesticide Perception – or in becoming a farmer, the session on How to Become a Farmer being the obvious choice.

Meanwhile, the global programme has 25 must-watch sessions with speakers from six different continents, from high profile activists like Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel, Rupa Marya, Anna Lappé and Nnimmo Bassey to community organisers and farmers from Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Guatemala, Kenya, Brazil, France, India, Germany and many other countries. This is an opportunity to take part in global interactive discussions on such topics as soil health with Elaine Ingham, workers’ rights with farmers from Almeria and Morocco and agroforestry with communities in the Brazilian Amazon. We are grateful to our international partners who include, La Via Campesina (LVC), the African Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), the ETC Group, the Agroecology Fund, the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and Be The Earth.

ORFC remains a welcoming space to gather, share knowledge, be inspired and discuss radical ideas. Make sure you upload your profile this side of Christmas and start messaging other delegates to find out what they’re going to see. And it’s not just all talks. There will be films, storytelling and an evening of music with the award-winning folk singer, Sam Lee and friends. At the beginning of what could be a rather bleak January, we are confident that ORFC will remain a place to find community and hope.

We look forward to seeing you there! So log in and review the programme now, here.

With warmest wishes for a happy Solstice, Christmas and New Year.

Francesca Price
Conference Director

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