Helen and Chris attended the renowned Oxford Real Farming Conference on the 3rd & 4th January, both to give a presentation on Kindling's work with Manchester Veg People, and to network with an amazingly diverse range of progressive food and farming organisations.
The Oxford Real Farming Conference is a unique annual event:
Every January for the past 60 years the agricultural Establishment–industry, government, and the NFU – have presented their views on the state of Britain’s farming and their plans for the future at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC); and they give the impression (as the Establishment feels bound to do) that everything is well in hand and that all is for the best. Above all the OFC stresses the need for farmers to “compete” on the global market.
But to working farmers, and to people at large, Britain’s agriculture seems to leave much to be desired. So in January 2010 a small group of us launched an alternative conference – the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) – to discuss the things that really matter: good food; a secure and beautiful countryside; plenty of satisfying jobs.
This fringe event felt more than just an alternative to the Oxford Farming Conference with several hundred people attending from organic and conventional farmers and growers, to NGO's like Soil Association, Sustain and the Plunkett Foundation; grass-roots groups like Oxford Cultivate, the Ecological Land Co-operative and Reclaim the Fields to academics and authors like Colin Tudge and Crispin Tickell. It was an interesting mix and made for some good and useful discussions.
Kindling did a presentation on Manchester Veg People entitled: Bringing growers and buyers together into a co-operative to deliver sustainable food.
We tried to make it a very practical session focused on how Manchester Veg People was set up and operates, but also explaining the context of our motivations for supporting the development of the co-op. The need to pay the growers fairly (i.e. covering the real cost of food production - often labelled as 'premium organic prices ' – this bit got a big whoop from a grower!) and to change the relationships in the food supply chain to create a more sustainable food system (and the belief that this is possible).
The workshop was well attended with nearly a hundred people cramming into the room and what we had to say and show was well received. The first hand that shot up at the end of the talk was a grower thanking us for the most inspirational talk he'd heard all day. He said that he was at a stage where he needed to change the way he worked and this had given him some real things to think about. This lead to a spontaneous round of applause – so we were well happy to have given some hope and inspiration particularly to other growers (after a pretty rubbish season).
We hope we get invited back next year!
Big thank you to Harry and all involved in organising the conference!
Both reports on the conference can be found at: http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/blogs/oxford-real-farming-conference and: http://www.energyroyd.org.uk/archives/6411