February 24, 2016

24/02/2016: Oxford Farming Conference 2016: Bold Agriculture

The 78th Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) was held from 5 to 7 January 2016 in the impressive buildings of the Oxford University Colleges. Three members of the Young DLG Working Party (Mirko Graff, Jan Fr├Ądrich and Henriette von der Leyen) took the unique opportunity to attend this conference. Their visit continued the cooperation between the DLG and OFC, which most recently had taken the form of the Young DLG hosting three British recipients of scholarships to the Agritechnica trade fair in November 2015. This exchange promotes the establishment of an international network of young farmers.

This year’s OFC was held under the motto of 'Bold Agriculture', and the conference events soon fleshed out what this meant: an agriculture that is characterised by dynamic entrepreneurs who take bold decisions, pursue bold visions and take bold action. The conference consequently covered a diverse range of topics presented by national and international speakers representing agricultural practice, science and policy. Just one of the questions examined was how much of an entrepreneurial approach British farmers actually take in their work, and it was found that the percentage of true entrepreneurs is smaller in agriculture than it is in other sectors. However, those who do pursue an entrepreneurial approach are substantially more successful.
Radcliffe Camera and All Souls' College, Oxford (Image: Tejvan Pettinger)
It is therefore important for farmers to know that entrepreneurship is something that can be learned, even though there are certain personality traits traits that make entrepreneurial flair come more naturally to some than for others. On the positive side, the decisive factors of perseverance, tenacity and effectiveness can all be developed and trained.

The conference proceedings on this topic are available for download HERE.

The potential Brexit was another major topic for discussion. Will British agriculture fare better within the EU or outside it? This issue was the subject of a heated discussion between Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire and a strong advocate for the UK leaving the EU, and Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

However, the OFC also addressed a great number of other important issues, including the questions of whether food will become the new medicine and whether there is equal opportunity in the agricultural sector. Another session dealt with technical progress through digitalisation in agriculture, and Dr Bram Govaerts from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), holder of the World Food Prize, discussed the important question of whether world hunger can be ended by 2050.
A visit by HRH Princess Anne gave the event a royal touch, and the three representatives of the Young DLG were even given an opportunity to speak with her. After the conference, the Young DLG representatives visited two farming businesses near Oxford together with Martin Davies, Chairman of next year’s OFC, and five other recipients of scholarships to the OFC. The hospitality and openness of the 450 OFC participants and organisers throughout this visit ensured that there was plenty of opportunity for meeting new people and making new friends.

Visit the DLG site HERE and the OFC site HERE.

The Global Miller
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