Oxford Farming Conference Report

Having attended the Oxford Farming Conference last week, I’ve come home with a lot of information and some very interesting food for thought on the future of our industry writes Jen Craig, joint winner of NFU Scotland’s letter writing competition to win a place at the conference.

The speakers at the 2018 Oxford Farming Conference were varied and absolutely inspirational.

The digital revolution session alone featured a location app which has broken the world in to 3m squares to be more accurate than postcodes and simpler than coordinates; a ‘hands free hectare’ scheme by a Harper Adams lecturer that uses robots; a company that works as a network for farmers in remote countries where there is no internet connection providing them with a phone; and a SMS platform to connect with other farmers to help improve their business.

The politics session, which featured Secretary of State Michael Gove, gave us an insight to where the current government want our industry to head, very much focusing on the environment and natural capital.

One of my favourite speakers though was a food culture journalist from America who has spent the last seven years researching the millennial generations’ relationship with food and the rise in veganism and food group-free diets amongst the younger generation and the motivations behind them.

Food is one area where the millennial generation feel they have more control compared to other aspects of their lives in the current digital age and use their chosen diet as an identity. Almost like being part of a religion or reflecting the way that being a farmer isn’t just my career choice, it’s my identity.

My main take home message is that, not only is our industry currently in a period of change, but so is how the consumer looks at their food and the choices they make for their individual diets.

Technology is always developing and, as an industry, we have plenty to embrace to help us move forward and adapt to those changes that we face.

As an industry and as individuals, we need to promote what we do.  We need to shout about the good stuff, the food we produce and the environmental good that we deliver.

  • Jen Craig is chair of NFU Scotland’s Clydesdale Branch; a member of Forth and Clyde Regional Board and an invitee to the Union’s Less Favoured Areas Committee.  Jen also sits on the Union’s New Generation group.

Author: Bob Carruth

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Oxford Farming Conference Report

After attending this year’s Oxford Farming Conference, my eyes have been opened wide to the world of agriculture and the absolute need to embrace change, as scary as that may seem writes Ben McClymont, joint winner of NFU Scotland’s letter writing competition to win a place at the conference.

Oxford was a fantastic event with some thought-provoking and inspirational speakers. I could write page after page about this amazing opportunity and the different things that I learned, but I have selected a few aspects that have stayed with me.

The Rt Hon Michael Gove spoke to the conference for nearly an hour as part of the politics session, but what did he tell us?  He is very good at talking for long periods of time but doesn’t appear to make any substantial points about the future of our industry.

The Secretary of State said that the EU CAP system is fundamentally flawed and outdated; it was established for a post-war Europe and people should no longer be rewarded for owning land.

After Brexit, he said: “subsidies will become public money, for public goods” and money will be given as an “investment in the protection of the environment”.

But to what extent are we going to have to “protect the environment”?  Are we going to have to turn half of our farms into wetlands for the birds and the bees?

I personally feel both statements are worrying as to the future of subsidies. Will the public support money being paid to farmers or would they rather see that money go towards the NHS?

I left the conference with a real concern about the future of our industry. After hearing from environmental activists, even the future of the meat industry is scary.  Will eating meat really be a thing of the past by 2100?

I urge you to watch and read all presentations from the Oxford – available at: - and judge for yourself.

The final point I will take away is the need to adapt and embrace change, and if you’re not willing to do that, then your future is very bleak.

  • Ben was brought up on the SRUC dairy research unit at Crichton Royal near Dumfries; is completing his BSc (Hons) in Agriculture and is very active in the Scottish Young Farmers movement.

Author: Bob Carruth

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