Five things we learnt at the Oxford Real Farming Conference

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The Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) celebrated its 10th birthday this year, and Triodos Bank was very happy to be back at the event to start 2019 with an agricultural bang.

This year, the conference hosted a record 1,000 delegates – from farmers to activists, and politicians to researchers. We joined Triodos customers, affiliates and friends to discuss how to create a sustainable food and farming system.

Here are five things we learnt during the two-day conference:

1. The status quo is being challenged

Set up in 2010 to provide an ‘antidote’ to established ideas on offer at the Oxford Farming Conference, ORFC has gone from being 80 people in a library to a large-scale event that spills into nearby venues. This year the conference welcomed 240 speakers – more than half of whom were women. It has become a must-attend event for the environment secretary and many of the mainstream media. The success of ORFC heralds a shift in mindset.

2. Methane metrics are complicated

Dr Michelle Cain from the Oxford Martin Programme on Climate Pollutants presented research on the different types of emissions that contribute to climate change. Methane is a short-lived pollutant, whereas carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for centuries. This means that they have different effects on the climate, yet historic metrics have treated them as equivalent. Food for thought.

Photo credit: Hugh Warwick

3. Good soil smells nice

Kimberley Bell of Small Food Bakery in Nottingham got the crowds at ORFC salivating as she discussed how we should connect to natural ingredients and shake up the retail system to give us back our true appetites. She then surprised everyone by encouraging us to smell lumps of soil during a tasting session: the richness of the ‘healthy’ soil was a real eye-opener.

4. 2019 is a year of challenge and opportunity

We have a chance to re-write agricultural policy this year. The new Agricultural Bill presents us with a potential silver lining to the Brexit process, with an opportunity for agroecology and organics to be central to food and farming policy. We need to ensure that the move towards sustainability is not drowned out in the ensuring clamour around Brexit, or degraded by trade deals that don’t value food, agriculture and the environment. 

Photo credit: Hugh Warwick

5. Farming isn’t just for farmers

This year, ORFC showcased thoughts and ideas from across the food and farming sphere – and what struck us was how it highlighted the importance of our food system for everyone: economically, socially, environmentally and culturally. Anna Cura of the Food Ethics Council explained that we need to think of ourselves as more than just ‘consumers’ of food, but food citizens, with the power to influence the food system based on our values and ideals.

Farming and food aren’t just important to farmers and growers – they’re vital to the healthy co-existence of all people and our planet.

Triodos Bank was a sponsor of this year's Oxford Real Farming Conference. The bank has over 35 years’ experience in financing organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture – visit our organic farming page to find out more.

Photo credit: Hugh Warwick

 

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