At the beginning of January, 5 members of the Tuppenny team attended the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC). This alternative farming conference is in its 15th year, and brings together farmers, land workers and experts from across the world.
Maggie Haynes, CEO
Rosemary Wilson, Centre Manager & Deputy CEO
Helen Wright, Head Gardener
The Oxford Real Farming Conference was fascinating. One of our goals was, especially in light of the extensive development in Southbourne, to seek out ideas to broaden and increase our contribution to the local biodiversity, thereby supporting wildlife, attracting pollinators and predators and improving the quality of our soil. There seems to have been a noticeable decline in bird life on site in the last four years, although this has not actually been measured, and we are keen to improve the situation.
As a result, a number of ideas are being explored including trying green manures again and researching food plants to attract appropriate insect species.
One disappointing/shocking aspect of the conference was the discovery that some “Regenerative Farmers” are sometimes still using glyphosate despite their best efforts, this highlights the difficulty of “trendy” marketing terms which are not clearly defined or certified.
Jane Gleeson, Horticultural Social Therapy Lead
The biggest thing I took away from the conference is hope for the future of food growing and land use. It is easy to become despondent when you see soils being degraded through farming practices and to watch topsoil wash off fields whenever we get heavy rain. The Oxford Real Farming Conference instilled hope as we listened to stories of farmers who have successfully transitioned to regenerative practices and are seeing biodiversity increase alongside their profits. Farmers desperately need support to do this.
It was sobering to hear just how enormous the lobbying power of the Pesticide industry is and a timely reminder of the importance of speaking up against this. It was interesting to hear the speaker from Share Action talk about how to educate investors in this industry as potential leverage point for change.
I was especially heartened watching the film premiere of Six Inches of Soil and cannot recommend it enough. IF you get an opportunity to watch it then it is well worth it.