Organic and small scale : An alternative vision for the future of farming
Two visions of the future of farming played out in
The five-year-old Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) at the town hall, sponsored by organic farming company Sheepdrove and dominated by small-scale farmers, food campaigners, and the agro-ecology movement, has now outgrown the establishment conference, the decades-old Oxford Farming Conference.
While the latter’s delegates – predominantly larger-scale landowners and the agrifood industry’s corporate representatives – were enjoying morning prayers in University College chapel, before a Barclays Bank breakfast, followed by a political session sponsored by agriculture equipment manufacturer Massey Ferguson with environment secretary, Liz Truss, and her labour shadow, Kerry McCarthy, and then dinner in Christ Church college, the alternative conference was debating proposals to radically reform the industrialised intensive model of agriculture they represent.
The current agroindustrial food system is “serving the world so badly it needs to wither on the vine,” said Colin Tudge, founder of the ORFC.
Calling for a complete rethink of the way we farm and cook, he said step by step reform of the status quo would not address the crisis in the global food system, which currently leaves a billion people worldwide chronically hungry, another billion suffering from food that is not fit for purpose but makes them ill, and endangers many species and wild habitats.
A new rural manifesto to tackle inequality in the countryside was launched at the alternative conference by the Land Workers’
“Family farms are declining in numbers, commercial farms are becoming larger and increasingly corporate, entry into the industry is increasingly difficult and the average age of farmers is worryingly high,” said land campaigner, Simon Fairlie .
The manifesto calls for agricultural subsidies to be capped at €150,000 per individual farmer so that taxpayers’ money is redirected to smaller and active farmers and away from richer landowners. It also calls for the break up of oligopolies of processors and retailers to protect famers from aggressive pricing.
Farming as currently structured has become economically unsustainable, as well as socially and environmentally destructive, according to Tom Lines, expert in commodities pricing at
Over the last four decades the cost of inputs had risen far more than the value of agricultural commodities, meaning the money farmers could make from food production was inadequate to keep people on the land in many countries including the