It's always very tempting to write an article about the hugely inspiring Oxford Real Farming Conference the second we get on the train home. Each year, we return to report on the exciting talks we heard, the inspiring people we meet, the workshops we spoke at and the fringe sessions we organised.
Not this time.
Instead, we thought we’d give you a run down of tools, examples and organisations that could become the foundations for a thriving sustainable food sector, all of which featured at the conference. We’ve selected a few key ingredients for the alternative, sustainable food and farming we are collectively building.
So, check out:
The wonderful Rebecca Laughton and colleagues from the Land Workers Alliance and the Permaculture Association presented their draft People Food Policy– a framework for the sector to work within and towards. Begun in October 2015, grassroots food and farming organisations are aiming to engage as many groups as possible in a process from the ground up to articulate a vision of a fairer food system for all, and how it can be realised.
The Land Workers Alliance have been busy trying to influence the future of farming in the UK, particularly after Brexit. They have been advocating a farming system that places small, family farmers first and their document: More Farmers, Better Food sets out a framework for British agricultural policy.
This fledgling network of ‘alternative’ food retailers are looking to build a coalition of veg box schemes, shops, farmers markets, co-ops, bulk buying groups and CSAs who are increasing access to sustainable food. Crucially they are collecting the hard data on our scale, reach and the economic, social and environmental benefits we collectively deliver, to win the argument that we can create meaningful, secure livelihoods whilst improving people’s health and looking after our farmers, the environment and the soil.
It's in the very early days but this open-source platform for the food sector has huge potential to help consumers and farmers to reconnect. Developed by four existing local food hubs, it is designed to be used by a wide range of food enterprises and organisations; from food banks to food co-ops, independent shops to markets and primary producers. By sharing software they're creating a powerful online resource to connect with customers, increase income and plan their logistics. The outcome is an increasingly rich, diverse and effective Open Food Network in the UK.
Hodmedod’s is a small but growing independent business, founded in 2012 to source and supply beans and other products from British farms. They have developed a new economic model of sustainable food production, researching, trailing and working closely with a range of farmers to rekindle the UK’s bean, pulses and grains industry. They are particularly interested in searching out less well-known foods, like the fava bean – grown in Britain since the Iron Age but now almost forgotten.
But don’t take our word for it, check out a huge number of presentations, handouts, videos and audio recording of the conference at: http://orfc.org.uk/archives/1717-2/
The ORFC is a must-be-at event for those involved in the food and farming sector. It's now the biggest such event of the year, and one that is starting to eclipse its rival, the Oxford Farming Conference, which is held at the same time around the corner. ORFC rightly claims to be “a unique gathering of the UK's sustainable and organic food and farming movements offering a practical mix of on-farm advice, showcasing new techniques for best practice in agroecological farming, and discuss the global food system, including the economic and trade policies that affect British farming.”