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Oxford Real Farming Conference

Oxford Real Farming Conference

The first week in January is Oxford Farming Conference season! Two conferences doors apart and some might say worlds apart!

The ‘Oxford Farming Conference’ has been going since 1936, with a slightly conservative and corporate vibe - with many a man is a suit or a Schoeffel jacket. This year the chair was a women (who, unsurprisingly, did a bloody brilliant job) and there is definitely a bit of a move with the times which is fantastic.

Just down the road is the 'Oxford Real Farming Conference' which has been going just 15 years and set up by some farmers as an antidote to the above.

I have been to both and enjoyed both but this one is where my heart lies. It has now grown into a huge event in person and online with a host of speakers from around the globe. It has a relaxed and informal buzz to it, where dread locks and comb overs sit very happily together.

This year I was asked by the Sustainable Food Trust to join a panel discussion - Feeding Britain from the Ground Up: Why We Should Align Our Future Diets with Regenerative Farming Systems, chaired by BBC Food Programs Dan Saladino (recent book – Eating to Extinction) and my hero Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland (I was slightly star struck).

Time flies when you do these talks but the outcome across the panel was the clear connection between the health of the nation and the food we eat. The importance of knowing how to cook, the disastrous decision to close many kitchen classrooms in schools, and our governments inability to understand how important it is in the long term.

My top session of the conference was discussion on ‘From Field to Bakery: Radical But Realistic Policy Changes for Accelerating Diversified Grain Systems in the UK’ with the wonderful Kim Bell from the Small Food Shop in Nottingham and Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedods. They highlighted the poor quality bread the Chorleywood process produces and the need to get back to basics with our bread.

If your in doubt about this look at the ingredients on your average supermarket loaf – white or wholemeal, they are very similar!

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