A sense that two farming conferences are getting closer together; although it’s fun to ‘spot the difference’, we can harvest more common ground.
I caught two people hung between the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). One had been ‘suggested’ by his boss to go to the OFC but his heart was at the ORFC, while the other, at an agricultural university with its heart firmly at OFC, was himself drawn instinctively to the ORFC.
Although I could only manage one day, there was certainly plenty of everything for everyone. If you wanted a rally atmosphere, the Town Hall was the place for you; if you wanted technical stuff, the Examination Rooms were your calling. You can guess which was which and I do generalise horribly. There was different political drama at both conferences, from a Defra minister to a landworkers’ alliance – but now for that common ground.
That comes in the form of a farmer holding up a large forage radish as Jake Freestone, a OFC veteran at ORFC, spread the message on cover crops and good soil management. There was barely a murmur in the room when he suggested that appropriate use of herbicides might be required to produce crops with roots 80 cm in length that re-condition soil that then enables greater yields of food crops (possibly requiring less pesticide input?)
While some say we are only nine meals from
anarchy, and others believe that we are only six steps back to the land, I believe it’s time for us to step closer together for a joint Oxford farming conference before too long.