THE Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) is an alternative farming conference that brings the real food and farming movement together every January in Oxford.
Farmers, growers, activists, policymakers and researchers gather from around the world for a radical programme that includes talks, hustings and discussions on the future of farming and agroecology.
ORFC is an international gathering where progressive ideas on agroecology, regenerative agriculture, organic farming and just food and farming systems are shared. This year speakers are coming from Uganda, Ethiopia, Brazil, Tonga and Andra Pradesh in India.
A taste of the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2024:
Farming and Fashion
Presented by model and activist Arizona Muse’s charity DIRT’s co-head Simona Valuckaite, Turning Fashion into a Climate Solution presents a movement for a better fashion industry through regenerative fibre farming. With an emphasis on the soil, DIRT is a charity with roots in the fashion industry, working to create true change inside a deeply destructive system of poverty, slavery and environmental degradation. This session is a journey into clothes, shoes, accessories and all the pieces that make up the fashion industry puzzle and their work to switch fashion’s sourcing power to get behind regenerative agriculture.
Other sessions include Native + Invasive Dye Plants with suppliers of The Bristol Cloth, the UK’s pioneer large scale soil-to-soil fabric production, Barn to Yarn Scaling regenerative fibre production with Mallon Linen, Loopy Ewes, and workshops The Fibreshed Toolkit and Rediscovering the seeds of the flax fibre industry in Scotland.
Premiere of ‘Six Inches of Soil’
Six Inches of Soil is a new feature-length documentary film from Director Colin Ramsay following the highs and lows of three new English regenerative farms over the 2022 growing season in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Cornwall. These stories examine a growing movement, showing the challenges faced by those who step away from conventional farming and the supermarket supply chain. The film is introduced by Sarah Langford, author of Rooted: Stories of Life, Land and a Farming Revolution.
Anna Jackson, a regenerative farmer from Six Inches of Soil said, “We think I’m an 11th generation farmer and through this film, my Dad and I want to have an honest chat to farmers who would like to transition away from high input farming, about money and yields and to have an open conversation about regenerative farming and how to change for the better. We really need to support one another, to be transparent about what does and doesn’t work. ORFC is such a key event in the farming calendar and gives us a chance to learn from each other.”
Food & Farming Hustings
These hustings bring the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs representatives from each of the four main political parties together to discuss the future of food and farming. They will set out their policy plans for the 2024 General Election, followed by a Q&A. With Emily O’Brien Councillor and Green Party Spokesperson on Food, Agriculture & Rural Welfare, Daniel Zeichner The Labour Pary’s Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Mark Spencer The Conservative Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
Colonisation and reparations
Oxford, Agriculture and Colonialism is a critical look at Oxford’s role in the history of agriculture, slavery, and colonialism. ORFC has always been a critical conference and looks to Oxford and its powerful institutions as a way of highlighting the symbolism of Oxford and the legacies of imperialism. Land as reparations and how to get there looks at strategies for communities who are directly affected by systems based on exploitation, violence and extraction and their fallout. No Borders in Land and Food Justice is a No Borders analysis of the food and land justice movement. Land Justice and Systemic Racism is an exploration and co-education on systemic social issues linked to land justice and the wider environmental movement with a discussion focused on race, culture and the legacy of colonialism.
The Commons and Commoning sessions
A Progressive Vision of a Good Society with Guy Standing and David Bollier. Commoning of the City: How community growing and peri-urban farming could lead the way for food, land, and social justice in urban areas will feature voices from grassroots community groups including Granville Community Kitchen, Southwark Land Commission, and Glasgow Community Food Network.
Professor Guy Standing said, “Taking a commons approach is the only viable way of reviving our food system on land and in the sea. In that context, the Oxford Real Farming Conference can be the catalyst of a national campaign for a Charter of the Commons.”
Ancestral knowledge and the connection to the land
Diasporic Black and Brown Communities, Land, Belonging, Representation and Social Justice a panel discussion from speakers with varied, (un)conventional perspectives and different professions linked to land. They will explore, honour and celebrate experiences, wisdom and intergenerational practices of diaspora about land justice and presence in the environmental scene. Sharing Our Land Stories and Lineages delves into complex relationships to land with diasporic identities and histories of displacement.
Andhra Pradesh women farmers are building a movement to scale up agroecology and end rural poverty collectively transforming the food they grow, their families’ health, and increasing their income. They are the largest transition to agroecology in the world and their “True Cost Accounting” measures social capital: collective action, trust and support, and community cohesion (including confronting domestic violence). They are working to make available their effective climate resilient methods to other regions and cultures.
Young Crofters from Scotland ask How did we? How do we? And how can we feed ourselves on the islands? Looking at Crofting, Community Land Ownership and what this model of low-intensive sustainable agriculture can contribute in the context of the climate emergency. Uist crofter and co-founder of Scottish Rural Action, Theona Morrison said: “I would consider the assets of ‘rural’ far from being on the back foot, rural holds the keys to the future in food, energy, and fresh water. There is evidence that rural areas are more resilient in a time of shock, such as the pandemic.”
Intergenerational farming sessions include The Youth Convergence on Land Justice, bringing people aged 16-24 from across the UK to discuss issues and opportunities young people face in land work, from farming to forestry, activism to nature restoration. The Penpont Project session brings together speakers from three generations and different backgrounds. They share how they are working together to restore nature, shift towards regenerative agricultural practices and build community across 500 acres at Penpont, the UK’s largest intergenerational nature recovery project.
Ruth West co-founder of ORFC said, “ORFC started as a one-off event with a bucket for donations to cover the cost of the room hire. It was held in Oxford as a much needed antidote to the annual Oxford Farming Conference – a bastion of industrial agriculture that was sponsored by corporates and attended by Ministers. We positioned ourselves across the street and put out a press release announcing our presence.
“This model, established early on has allowed us to move with – indeed often ahead, of the times. Always in mind is the principle that we are there to serve and support the growing community of farmers and others committed to bringing about the much needed transformation of our food supply.
“We gather to challenge and expose the failings of industrial agriculture however it may seek to rename itself; always based on the principles of agroecology as a practice, a science and a social movement. Above all, we are thrilled to be a part of this wider global movement of shared vision and hope for change.”
Oxford Real Farming Conference takes place in venues throughout Oxford and online on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 January 2024.