Annual conference 2010

The Future  of Food
3 - 4 February 2010
The Custard Factory, Birmingham

The Soil Association conference addressed the triple challenges of climate change, resource depletion and food security and the need to develop new models for food and farming systems for the 21st century. Arguably our current globalised, and deeply unsustainable industrial approach, requires a national action programme on the scale of a war effort.

Despite the urgency of the need for radical overhaul of our food and farming systems many key players in the agricultural industry believe that the solution will be based on existing production systems high inputs, GM and global trade. This conference debated whether a modified ‘business as usual’ strategy would suffice or whether preparing for the future requires the most far reaching changes to our food systems for more than half a century.

Conference programme, Wednesday, 3 February

8.30 - Registration

9.00 - The future of food. Opening address by Patrick Holden, Director, Soil Association

Panel one: The Politicians
Chair: Charlotte Smith [10MB, mp3], Farming Today
Panel: Rt. Hon Hilary Benn [8.11MB mp3] (Secretary of State for Defra), Jim Paice [14.5MB, mp3] (Conservative spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Affairs), Roger Williams [11.9MB, mp3] (Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Food and Farming) and Jenny Jones (Green Party).

Q & A

10:30 - Coffee

11:15 - Workshops

Soil carbon

Catered food A foot on the farming ladder Transforming textiles
Could organic farming play a central role in sequestering atmospheric carbon? Four experts discuss the evidence. Exploring the potential for sustainable and local food sourcing for schools, hospitals, restaurants and more. Exploring the barriers and opportunities to entering farming – money, skills, scale. New entrants share their experiences.
workshop notes
Can organic help the textile market meet it's social and environmental obligations? Manufacturers, Retailers and NGO's tell their stories.
workshop notes

12:45 - Lunch

14:15 - Panel two: The Farmers

Chair: John Craven [5.79MB, mp3]
Panel: Peter Kendall [7.3MB, mp3] (NFU) Oliver Walston [4.84MB, mp3], Patrick Holden [4.81MB, mp3] (Soil Association) and Rebecca Hosking [7.49MB, mp3].

15.45 - Tea

16:15 - Workshops

New routes to market

Low carbon farming

Baby food

The international challenge

Fed up with selling your produce to large scale buyers at little more than the cost of production?
Attend this workshop to hear successful alternative models.
workshop notes
Farming could be the game winner for successfully combatting climate change. Hear first hand from producers already on the path to zero carbon.
What lessons can we learn from the resilience of the organic baby food market and how might they be applied to get the market back to growth?
How can the Global North and the South work together in developing truly sustainable food and farming systems.

17:45 - Conference ends - films and art exhibition open in the Vaad Gallery, sponsored by Green Fibres

19:30 - Conference dinner – in season, organic ingredients supplied by local artisan producers at the Custard Factory.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

8:30 - Registration

9.00 - Panel three: Civil Society
Chair: Monty Don [6.79MB, mp3]
Panel: Carlo Leifert [13.2MB, mp3] (Newcastle University), Dr Mike Bushell [8.24MB, mp3] (Syngenta), Graham Keating [6.16MB, mp3] (Yeo Valley), Victoria Johnson [9.24MB, mp3], (new economics foundation) and Mike Small [9.04MB, mp3] (The Fife Diet).

10.00 - Coffee

10:45 - Presentation of FFLP awards to schools

11:30 - Workshops 

The role of livestock

Organic elitism - is it for the chosen few?

Schools, food and the future

Faith in food

Methane versus carbon - why livestock, especially ruminants could play a central role in sustainable agriculture.

Organic is now seen as expensive and elitist. Have we been complicit in this positioning and how it can be challenged?
workshop notes

The Food for Life Partnership aims to transform food culture in 3,600 schools and their communities. Hear from staff and pupils how the programme could help solve our food system issues.

Harnessing the power of the world’s faith communities to transform the food and farming systems of the 21st century.
workshop notes

13:00 - Lunch

14:15 - Panel four: The Public
Chair: Joanna Blythman [5.63MB, mp3]
Panel: Graham Harvey [5.55MB, mp3] (Author of The Carbon Fields), Darina Allen [11.2MB, mp3] (Ballymaloe Cookery School), Jeanette Orrey [4.13MB, mp3] (School Meals Policy Advisor), Monty Don [5.03MB, mp3] (Soil Association President)

16:15 - Last words – Peter Melchett (
Policy Director, Soil Association)

Supported by

Abaca organic living    Ella's kitchen   Fyffes   Triodos Bank


Food for life partnership

Thanks also to

Clipper - natural, fair & delicious      

Juniper Green       Realfood
Soil Association annual conference 3, 4 February 2010 Birmingham