With tickets now on sale for the 2024 edition of the Oxford Farming Conference, the headline list of speakers has been announced.
Next year’s event will include environmentalist and financier Ben Goldsmith; chef, broadcaster and writer Romy Gill MBE; farmer and musician Andy Cato; and Chair of Westmorland Limited Sarah Dunning.
They will join more than 30 other speakers who will attend the event from the 3rd to the 5th of January.
Mr Goldsmith has been a controversial figure in the rural community for his views and will put forward the motion this house believes that farming for food is holding back nature recovery in protected landscapes during the conference debate.
Cumbrian hill farmer Will Cockburn will lead the opposition to the motion.
Chair of OFC24, Welsh beef and arable farmer Will Evans, said tickets going on sale and the announcement of speakers for the event has set the countdown clock ticking.
“It was very exciting – but also slightly daunting – to see the tickets going on sale,” he said.
“What the conference does so well is challenge its audiences; putting speakers on stage saying things that we as an industry don’t necessarily want to hear.”
One speaker Mr Evans says he is looking forward to is Sarah Dunning OBE, whose parents launched Tebay Services after the M6 motorway was built across their Cumbrian hill farm.
“We’ve all probably pulled off the motorway at Gloucester, or one of the family’s other service stations, and it will be so interesting to hear the backstory to this farming family’s amazing success story,” he explained.
Mr Evans noted that the theme of diversity came to him while his was driving his tractor. “I hope diversity will be a lasting legacy, rather than a theme that is tackled and then forgotten about,” he explained.
“It’s very much my hope that we can go forward united in making agriculture a destination industry for people from a diversity of backgrounds.
“Of course, agriculture is already full of diversity – in its environment, landscapes and the food it produces – so it’s a much wider theme than just about the people within the industry. I want the whole conference to be a celebration of difference. There are no right or wrong answers; but diversity of opinions that we might not agree with but that are very much worth listening to.”
Other keynote speakers will include Caroline van der Plas, the party leader of the Farmer Citizen Movement (BBB, BoerBurgerBeweging) in The Netherlands, which won a landslide victory in regional elections this March.
Another travelling from overseas is Dr Diana Onyango, a veterinary doctor with more than 20 years of experience in the Horn of Africa. Closer to home, farmer Douglas Wanstall will discuss how he is developing a truly circular agricultural system, as well as his work on the UK Carbon Code of Conduct.
Fifth-generation dairy farmer Jimmy Shanks will speak about becoming Scotland’s only tomato producer, while Michael Duxbury will talk on the Inclusive Farm, which teaches agriculture to disabled students.
Jan McCourt, who went from investment banker to a full-time farmer, will also share his journey.
For more information and to purchase tickets go to www.ofc.org.uk