Oxford Real Farming Conference

Oxford Real Farming Conference 2024

An inspiring – and tiring – two days at the fifteenth Oxford Real Farming Conference – so much to think about after a brilliant couple of days of listening and learning with 400+ speakers over nine venues and 3,500+ delegates in person and online!  Livestock grazing, market gardening, soil health or food sovereignty … ORFC24 had it covered. 

And it’s not over yet – going to be catching up with some of the recorded sessions we couldn’t squeeze in over the next few days.

The focus of the conference remains environmentally friendly farming practices that, without requiring reinvention, deliver biodiversity and climate neutrality. 

Some highlights? Our Oxford kicked off early on Wednesday evening with WildLIVE The Wildlife Trusts and Soil Association discussion “Is it time to put the food vs nature debate to bed?” chaired by Wildlife Trusts Chief Exec Craig Bennett with Cumbrian organic dairy farmer James Robinson from Nature Friendly Farming NetworkLucinda Langton Head of Sustainability Marks and SpencerSteve Proud Land Management Director Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and farmer and author Sarah Langford.

“I realise this is optimistic but I would get a new government to merge Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and NHS” Sarah Langford

On Wednesday afternoon Sheepdrove’s Rosie Kindersley joined a panel featuring Yuli Somme from Bellacouche Shop, Rosie Inman Cook from The Association of Natural Burial Grounds, Liz Rothschild and Adam Twine from Westmill Woodland Burial Ground to discuss How Can Natural Burial Become Part of Diversification on Farms? Thursday was rounded off by a delicious dinner in good company with Pasture for Life at the excellent  Wilding Oxfordin Jericho, Oxford.

Some insights to share!

From “What Role for Grazing Livestock in a Warming World?” came the warning not to get stuck in carbon tunnel vision and to resist ranking food and its carbon footprint by the kilo and calorie but assess by nutritional value. From Michael Lee from Harper Adams

“Is the value of food weight? No, it is nutritional density.” 

“Sustainability is wider than carbon.”

And from Iain Tolhurst during “Soil Health At Scale” 

On tillage “Everyone’s very critical of the plough these days…Keep it light, keep it gentle, keep it shallow.”

On soil health “If you understand the soil from the psychology of an earthworm you will understand what needs to be done for soil fertility.”

On weeds “When I first came into horticulture my desire was to kill everything… now I can justify having weeds in the system as they are hugely beneficial for soil health in the rotation.”

A big bravo and massive thank you to all the Oxford Real Farming Conference organisers and volunteers. Until next year…

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