Wednesday 9 February

Helen Browning

Helen Browning will take up the post of Chief Executive of the Soil Association in early spring. Helen runs a tenanted 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire, which supplies organic meat to multiple retailers. The business recently diversified to take on the running of the village pub, successfully adding a restaurant. She is currently Director of External Affairs at the National Trust and before taking up that role she was Food and Farming Director at the Soil Association for many years. She is also Chair of the Food Ethics Council and has been a member of several important commissions concerning British agriculture and food, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food; the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission; and the Meat and Livestock Commission. She was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.

Councillor Nigel Murphy

Executive Member for the Environment, Manchester City Council. Nigel was first elected in May 2006 and is the Executive Member for the Environment on the City Council with responsibility for delivering the Cities ambitious target of reducing CO2 omissions by 41% by 2020. Nigel is also a member of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority.

Secretary of State, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP

Caroline Spelman was appointed as Secretary of State on 12 May 2010. Caroline has been the Member of Parliament for Meriden since 1997. In Opposition, she served in the Shadow Cabinet, covering the Environment, International Development and Communities and Local Government portfolios. Before entering Parliament, Caroline had an extensive career in the agriculture sector, with fifteen years in the agriculture industry including being deputy director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers and a research fellow for the Centre for European Agricultural Studies. She has authored a book on the non-food use of agricultural products and is fluent in French and German.

Peter Melchett

Peter Melchett is Policy Director of the Soil Association.  He runs an 890-acre organic farm in Norfolk, with pigs, beef cattle and arable seed crops. He is a member of the Government’s Rural Climate Change Forum and the BBC’s Rural Affairs Committee.  He was a member of the Government’s Organic Action Plan Group, and the Department of Education’s School Lunches Review Panel. He was a Special Lecturer in Biological Sciences, Nottingham University 1984-2002, was on the Board of the EU £12m Research Project ‘Quality Low Input Food’, and does some environmental consulting, for example with IKEA and ASDA.  He was a Labour Government Minister 1974-79, at the Departments of Environment, Industry, and Northern Ireland. He was Director of Greenpeace UK (1985-2000), and chaired Greenpeace Japan (1995-2001).

Dr Mike Bushell

Mike is based at Syngenta International Research Centre, in Berkshire. Mike has recently taken up a new role in Global R&D as Principal Scientific Adviser and is also secretary to Syngenta’s Science and Technology Advisory Board. He started at Jealott’s Hill in 1980 as a Team Leader in Insecticide Research, following post-doctoral work in Cambridge.  Since 1990, Mike has held various management positions in Chemistry, Bioscience and also within Zeneca Specialties in Manchester.  He returned to Jealott’s Hill in 1999 as Sector Leader for Insect and Fungal Control.  Within Syngenta he has previously held the roles of Head of R&T Projects, Head of Discovery, Head of Strategy and Technology, Head of External Partnerships and Head of Jealott’s Hill International Research Centre.

Rita Clifton

Rita is Chairman of the brand consultancy, Interbrand. Rita joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1986 and was promoted to Vice-Chairman & Executive Planning Director in 1995. In 1997 Rita joined Interbrand, becoming Chairman in January 2002. In 2006, she was appointed Visiting Professor at Henley Management College and most recently, she was appointed a trustee of WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature).  She has been a member of the Government’s Sustainable Development Commission and is on the Assurance and Advisory board for BP’s carbon offset programme ‘targetneutral’.

Peter Kendall

Peter farms in Eyeworth, East Bedfordshire. The farm has changed over the last ten years from a traditional mixed farm to a totally arable unit. Peter took a degree in Agricultural Economics at Nottingham University, before returning to the family business in 1984.  He became President of NFU Cereals in 2006, and is also a Vice-President of the European farm organisation, COPA.  Peter sits on a variety of bodies in the UK and Europe, including IGD’s Policy Issues Group. At the top of his list of priorities is ensuring that the growing importance of agriculture and horticulture to food security and climate change are not only recognised by the Government, but reflected in its policies affecting farming right across the board.

Dr John Middleton

John Middleton has been Director for Public Health in Sandwell for 21 years. His principal interests are environmental health and sustainable developments. He is a member of Medical Action for Global Survival and has co-written the Open University Public Health Reader chapter on terrorism and health. His team sponsors the Sandwell Health Other Economic Summit (SHOES), a meeting which has "thought globally and acted locally" to improve the health of people in Sandwell and beyond. He has worked extensively on getting research into practice in healthy-public policy, having helped found the Campbell Collaboration. He is Honorary Reader in Public Health at Birmingham University and Honorary Senior Research Fellow with the Warwick University Business School.

Dr Urs Niggli

Dr Urs Niggli is Director of Europe's largest centre for organic agricultural research and extension, with offices in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Dr Niggli teaches selected topics of organic agriculture at ETH Zurich, Kassel/Witzenhausen University and at the University of Wales, with an extensive background in crop research and weed management.  He will present the conference with an overview of recent European organic research.

Monty Don

Monty has presented gardening and travel programmes for the past 20 years and is currently presenting ‘My Dream farm’ for Channel 4. He is a prolific journalist, and was the Observer’s gardening editor from 1994 until 2006 and for the Daily Mail from 2003 to the present. His bestselling books include ‘Fork to Fork’ and ‘The Jewel Garden’ (with Sarah Don), ‘Around the World in 80 Gardens’ and his latest, ‘The Ivington Diaries’. Among other charities, Monty actively supports THRIVE - which provides gardening opportunities to people with a range of mental health problems, SANE and is President of the Soil Association. He has also set up his own charity, The Monty Project, to continue his work with persistent offenders and to help set up similar projects in other areas of the country.

Joanna Blythman

Joanna Blythman is a British investigative food journalist, writer and commentator on the British food chain, covering subjects as diverse as salmon farming, bird flu and the causes of obesity. She has won five Glenfiddich Awards for her writing, including a Glenfiddich Special Award for her first book, The Food We Eat, and the Glenfiddich Food Book of the Year Award in 2005 for Shopped, as well as a Caroline Walker Media Award and a Guild of Food Writers Award. In 2007 Joanna was awarded the Good Housekeeping award for Outstanding Contribution to Food.  She broadcasts frequently on food issues on BBC Breakfast, Radio 4 The Food Programme and Woman's Hour. She is a contributor to a number of other newspapers and magazines, including Observer Food Monthly, BBC Countryfile magazine, and The Grocer. Her most recent book is Bad Food Britain (2006).

Colin Cox

Colin is a Public Health Consultant jointly employed by Manchester City Council and NHS Manchester. As the city’s public health lead for food, he established the Food Futures strategy and partnership in 2003. What began as a seminar with about 20 attendees has subsequently grown to a network of almost 300 people in the city thanks to the work of a full time programme manager and other colleagues within and beyond the Manchester Joint Health Unit.

Professor Tim Lang

Tim Lang has been Professor of Food Policy at City University's Centre for Food Policy in London since 2002. In 2006, he was appointed Natural Resources and Land Use Commissioner on the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Commission where he led the 2008 ‘Green, Healthy and Fair’ report on government’s relations with supermarkets. He worked with the Royal Institute of International Affairs on its ‘Food Supply in the 21st Century’ programme reporting in October 2008. He was an advisor to the Cabinet Office review of Food and Food Policy published in July 2008 and was appointed to Defra’s Council of Food Policy Advisors in December 2008. He is a Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health. He is author and co-author of over 120 publications, including the books ‘Food Wars’, ‘The Atlas of Food’ and ‘Food Policy’.

Angela Mawle

Angela's career is in public health including 13 years as a nurse and health visitor, working in communities around sustainable development planning, and academic environmental sciences.  Amongst her roles she has been an environmental consultant, director of the Women's Environmental Network, Sustainable City Manager in Bristol City Council and Sustainability Manager for the Isle of Wight. In 2003 Angela became the Chief Executive of UK Public Health Association (UKPHA).  During her time at the UKPHA, Angela has continuously encouraged member consultation and involvement in all areas of work. This has included the development and coordination of the Health and Sustainable Development Action Group, a cross sectoral group of member organisations, groups and individuals working together to address the impacts on human health of climate change and environmental degradation.

Guy Watson

Guy was born and raised at Riverford Farm as one of five children, all five of whom are today running food businesses from the farm. After a short spell working as a marketing consultant he returned to the farm to start Riverford Organic Vegetables in 1986. The business has grown from three acres, over 25 years, to a business employing 400 staff with sales of £35 million. A vegetable box scheme was started in 1993 as a means of escaping the grasp of the supermarkets and now delivers to 40,000 households a week and represents 95% of sales. However, Guy is sceptical of the benefits of scale and has built a business based on long-term co-operation with growers and joint ventures at a local level enabling national delivery from six regional farms, normally within 75 miles of the customer.  Guy is an enthusiast for co-operation, collaboration and profit sharing in business. Guy is a keen cook, opening the award winning Riverford Field Kitchen in 2005 and publishing two cookery books with head chef Jane Baxter. 


Duchy Originals  Waitrose

Community Foods Ecotricity Triodos
Food for Life Partnership Green & Black's Produce World

Read more about our sponsors and supporters...