Inspired by forward-thinking Oxford debates – Nick Grayson

In this blog post, Nick Grayson, a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire who is pictured below, details his experience at the recent Oxford Farming Conference.

Each January, the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group sponsors a select number of members to attend the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC). But the rival Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) is fast gaining in popularity, so this year Future Farmers thought they’d do something different.

Stoking the fire of competition, they sent two Future Farmers to each event.

Getting off the farm isn’t something that happens very often, so when I got the opportunity to go to the Oxford Farming Conference, I jumped at the chance!

I run our tenanted farm near Rotherham with my wife Carys and two young sons. We farm 150 acres of arable land, a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, a few rare-breed sheep and pigs and at Christmas we have plenty of turkeys to keep us busy.

Our main passions are supplying local meat to the surrounding areas and farming using sustainable practises.

Nick Grayson, member of Future Farmers of Yorkshire

My family started producing Christmas turkeys on this farm in 1929 and we have carried on ever since. More recently we have introduced lamb and pork boxes – sausages and bacon have proved a hit on Sunday mornings!

Given our interest in sustainability, diversification and local supply chains, the line up at OFC was right up our street.

The Scholars programme kicked off last November with a visit to OSI in Scunthorpe, the main processing plant for McDonalds burgers and what an eye-opening experience.

I am still quoting all the facts and figures about the McDonalds business to anyone who will listen. We even had a go at constructing our own Big Mac and I can confirm nothing is added and they are definitely 100% Irish or British beef.

Fast-forward to the conference in January and I arrived at my room in Christchurch College ready to learn, network and, of course, have fun.

Speakers of note for me included Professor Alice Stanton of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters and Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon restaurants chain who is leading the Government’s National Food Strategy.

  • Prof Alice Stanton discussed the health implications of vegan diets which can consist of highly processed food.
  • Minette Batters gave an uplifting speech around ensuring food with lower production standards isn’t imported into the UK, post-Brexit.
  • Finally, restoring the environment was the main topic for Henry Dimbleby, – for someone in the early stages of their farming career, this challenge is something I find very exciting.

To top it off, as we all left to make our way home, we were serenaded by Extinction Rebellion protesters singing “if you want to be our farmer” to the tune of the popular Spice Girls song!

The whole OFC experience was truly inspiring, from the setting, to the speakers and sessions. During the diverse and engaging programme, I made some fantastic connections, along with making new friends, catching up with old friends and, of course, sampling one or two beers at the rowing club.

Before our Future Farmers Spring Debate on Wednesday 4th March, the OFC and the ORFC teams will argue for and against the motion, ‘The Future is Real’. Consider it an appetiser to our main debate.

  • Future Farmers of Yorkshire was launched in 2010 to bring together like-minded farmers, vets and industry supporters. It is backed by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
  • The group has been joined by more than 1,000 forward-thinking members, eager to expand their knowledge and excel in their careers.
  • To join the group, please email

Headline picture credit: Oxford Farming Conference

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Future Farmer Anna Cornforth#Farm4Zero