But the rival Oxford Real Farming Conference is fast gaining in popularity. Indeed, for the last couple of years, Michael Gove has spoken at one and then hopped over the road to speak at the other.
This year we thought we’d do something a little different. We thought we’d stoke the fire of competition. We thought we pit the two conference against each other. We are going to send two Future Farmers to each.
Attending the Oxford Farming Conference are Ben Parker and Nick Grayson.
Ben is an arable farmer from Upper Poppleton, near York. He looks forward to “learning new ideas and approaches to some of the many challenges facing agriculture notably for today, climate change and the weather, as well as a changing political situation with regards Brexit, changing consumer habits and diets.”
Nick farms on the outskirts of Rotherham. The farm is primarily arable, with a small sucker herd, sheep, pigs and turkeys. Nick is keen to explore the options for farmers, post-Brexit, which he feels are “to be a commodity producer who can compete against our global rivals with no buffer or to be a producer able to add value to their product by selling direct to the consumer locally”.
Representing Future Farmers for the first time at the Oxford Real Farming Conference are Angus Gowthorpe and Natalie Moore.
Natalie Moore works as a grain trader and freelance lorry driver, alongside running her own flock of sheep. Angus runs a mixed farm in Escrick, where he breeds Salers cattle and grows a variety of crops including winter wheat and winter barley as fodder for his own livestock.
He manages his farm to be as sustainable as possible, with a focus on direct drilling and growing cover crops to maintain the health of the soil across his arable land.
He said: “Through attending the conference I hope to bring home more practical ideas which I can incorporate into my farming practices on the home farm, to further enable me to achieve Carbon net zero status whilst being more profitable as a business.”
We have asked our Oxford Scholars to enter into the spirit of competition. Before our annual Spring meeting, we will hear the OFC and the ORFC teams argue for and against the motion, Real is Better.
Ben is already looking forward to this prospect – “I am more than happy to engage in the debate about the two conferences and hopefully prove real is not better!” – consider this an appetizer to our main debate.
Through Yorkshire Agricultural Society funding, Future Farmers offers a range of opportunities for personal development, throughout the year, including training and sponsorship to attend events and conferences.
The OFC and ORFC scholarships are part of a range of opportunities, which also include the Worshipful Company of Farmers Challenge of Rural Leadership Course, the NFU Conference and Nuffield Farming Scholarships. These opportunities bring benefits to members’ careers, their businesses and the Yorkshire farming industry.