Oxford Real Farming Conference 2022
Oxford Real Farming Conference: Soil Association to champion nature-friendly farming
The 2022 Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) is taking place online instead of in person this year, and the Soil Association will be hosting and taking in part in several sessions to promote nature-friendly farming.
The annual event – running from 5-7 January – is a key moment in the farming world’s calendar, and it runs alongside the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) that is held at the same time. Both conferences are taking place online but are still due to be influential with a wide range of speakers and subjects across the programmes, including government ministers.
Speak up for soil health
In a panel debate hosted by the Soil Association and the Sustainable Soils Alliance, ORFC attendees will have the chance to share ideas for the government’s promised Soil Health Action Plan for England (SHAPE).
The interactive “Getting Soils into SHAPE” session will look at soil conservation and explore ideas on what policy is needed to protect this vital resource.
Ideas put forward at the event on the second day of the conference will be collated and sent onto Defra, with the hope of influencing the action plan. The session is also hoping to hear the latest on the action plan from a government minister.
Programme of Soil Association events:
Pest control without chemicals, the perks of trees on farms, and “culturally appropriate” vegetables will also feature at the conference in the other sessions with the Soil Association.
See below for a list of Soil Association events at ORFC, and for a full programme of the conference, visit the Oxford Real Farming Conference website.
Thursday 6 January
The Magic Money Tree
9 - 10.30am, Assembly Room
Soil Association head of horticulture and agroforestry, Ben Raskin, will be sharing his expertise on the benefits of growing trees on farm for the environment, food production, and farming enterprises. Joined by Jez Ralph from Timber Strategies, the session will explore a range of options for on and off farm markets for timber and other woody products, including fence posts, livestock bedding, and milling timber for building.
What progress on Environmental Land Management Schemes and wider farm policy?
9 – 10.30am, the Church
Gareth Morgan, Soil Association head of policy, will be joined by farming sector experts in this workshop to assess the current Environmental Land Management Scheme design and early roll out. The session will hear from those involved in tests, trials and pilot schemes, and look ahead at what farmers should be paid for. Workshop responses will be collated and fed back to Defra.
All the Trappings of Success: how to control pests in horticulture
11am – 12:30pm, Assembly Room
Professor of Entomology Rosemary Collier, agri-tech specialist Tim Blyth, and agronomist James Rome will join Soil Association horticultural advisor Carolyn Coxe to look at the benefits of pest traps in horticulture, as well as discussing other ways of controlling pests.
Diversity in Horticulture: what is "culturally appropriate" veg?
2 – 3.30pm – Christopher Room
Soil Association horticultural advisor Hugh Blogg will join this panel discussion on how to improve diversity in UK horticulture. Looking at the recent Rootz into Food Growing report, the session will look at how food should reflect the diverse range of cultures in our society, and how to remove barriers to culturally appropriate growing.
Is this a second coming for vegetable box schemes?
4 – 5pm, Council Chamber
Hosted by the Soil Association, this session will look at the history of veg box schemes and the future of them amid the shift in shopping attitudes that took place during Brexit and Covid, with many people turning to local and online food shopping.
Friday 7 January
Diverging from the EU - UK rules on farm antibiotic use
9 – 10.30am, Court Room
Alongside colleagues from the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, Soil Association head of policy Gareth Morgan will be taking part in a session looking at post-Brexit antibiotic rules on UK farms.
Farmer-led research to banish pests without pesticides
11am – 12:30pm, Assembly Room
This session will share the latest knowledge from the field on nature-friendly crop protection, including farmer-led research with Innovative Farmers. Soil Association farming advisor Jerry Alford will join panellists to discuss a range of biological and mechanical alternatives to pest control. It will also be a great opportunity for farmers to find out more about the benefits of farmer-led research and how to adopt this model on farm.
Getting Soils in SHAPE - putting soils at the heart of UK farming policy
2 – 3.30pm, Main Hall
Hosted by the Soil Association and the Sustainable Soils Alliance, this session will hear from organic and agroecological farmers on new approaches to soil conservation, and discuss the policy needed to protect this vital resource. Participants will be invited to brainstorm ideas for the Soil Health Action Plan for England (SHAPE) that has been promised by government. Ideas will be collated and sent on to Defra to help “shape the SHAPE”. Soil Association representatives on the panel will include head of policy Gareth Morgan, head of farming Liz Bowles and organic sector advisor Adrian Steele.
Organic Farming: Building Resilience
4 – 5pm, Council Chamber
This session will look at new opportunities and challenges for organic farmers, looking at trends and how farm businesses are adapting to build environmental and financial resilience in a time of change. Soil Association Certification’s farming business development managers Sophie Kirk and Beth Kelsey will be joined by Adrian Steele, organic sector advisor at the Soil Association, and two diverse organic farm businesses.
Opportunities and Challenges: Diversifying into mushroom production
4 – 5pm, Assembly Room
This session will look at the opportunities for increasing UK mushroom production. Currently the UK is less then 50% self-sufficient in mushrooms, despite the crop mostly grown in non-season dependent conditions. As part of Organic-PLUS research, the Soil Association has been looking at some of the challenges facing the industry and Hugh Blogg, Soil Association horticultural advisor, will be on the panel to explore these issues.