With fields and veg plots in relative retirement, the cold dark winter is the ideal time of year to debate the ins and outs of the broad and challenging task we call farming. This seems to be the consensus for traditional and progressive farmers alike, as this week, Oxford played host simultaneously to both the Oxford Farming Conference and the Oxford Real Farming Conference.
Similar in name; divided in ethos.
The former conference, hosted for many decades, remains focused on driving profit and building big business. The latter, on the other hand, considers first and foremost how to farm in a way that is sustainable, ethical, and just. Guess which conference I went to…
The Oxford Real Farming Conference was blooming with inspiring and provocative sessions on a range of topics, from wildlife on farms, to agroforestry, to confronting malnutrition. The conference matched a clear and repeated focus on challenging the ‘hostile economic environment in which we operate’, with impressively experienced and knowledgeable contributions from a wide range of farmers, academics, and politicians. The attempt at confrontation was hammered home by the phrase ‘the other conference across the road’ being a common feature in each session. But the atmosphere remained positive and forward-thinking, with the Land Workers’ Alliance calling for 2016 to be ‘a year of building bridges’, of sharing ideas and creating conversation.
So it is with that in mind that I write this little post. One of my new year’s resolutions is to write, well and often. It is by committing to writing that I hope to stay well informed on the wider issues of farming that I’ve learnt about this week, and then hopefully relay them to willing and interested readers like yourself!
If the source of your food is important to you, if the economic and environmental issues behind farming are a concern to you, or if beautiful pictures of our plots and produce are appealing to you, then you’re in luck! I’ll be writing every couple of weeks about all that’s going on here at Gold Hill, and in the wider farming world.
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