HRH Princess Royal gave a warm address at the Oxford Farming Conference, to round off her afternoon watching the three Inspiring Farmers talk and Professor Chris Elliot’s presentation on food integrity. Fundamentally interested in the rural economy, her Highness said how much she always enjoyed coming to the OFC where you "get some of the most informed debate and some of the most inspiring speakers". She commended both the speakers she had seen, and farmers for their resilience, saying that the British weather conditions put them in good stead:
“We know that these conditions of course help deal with adversity and a degree of resilience which perhaps some others don't have to deal with on such a permanent basis. This also engenders a considerable amount of pioneering spirit, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, which is what you have been debating here today."
Speaking personally about each of the presentations, she touched on the importance of health and safety further to Tim Papworth’s accident, and told Duncan McConchie that if everyone had commented on the interiors and not mentioned the flushability of the toilets, then that's a great success, to great laughter and applause from the audience.
She also congratulated Carla Borges’ for her success in fronting a big agribusiness.
"I hope it will offer enormous encouragement to women in farming businesses who, though they have always been part of the farming sector, don't always have the public profile in that role, and it is encouraging to achieve acceptance of women running agricultural businesses, whether in Brazil or in Scotland, in the front line."
Her Royal Highness responded to the 2018 conference’s theme of Embracing Change, as well as other themes touched on during the day:
“The changes are for you. Learn from this each other and from best practice, and from the experience of other farmers who have learnt lessons, have made successes, in which you may recognise your own or a family structure. The issue of succession constantly needs to be revisited to make sure that continuity in decision making and land use remains active. Our education system needs to remember the basics of remaining healthy - how we eat, how we produce it. We need to move, we need to change. Remembering those real basics, whether recognising that mixed farming gives us those basics or how intensification can be managed so we can produce what we need in the right way.
She referred to Professor Elliot's presentation and the dangers we face in the farming sector. Through personal knowledge, she is aware how much local rural businesses rely on a good brand, and the trust of the local people, and if you lose that trust, how much it costs the entire sector. There is a real need for people to understand where the weak spots are in terms of food fraud, food safety and authenticity, and understanding nutritional values."
Her Royal Highness, who is involved in rewarding schools with good nutritional input and education, also argued for the importance of education about nutrition, from a young age and all the way through school.
"Fundamentally it is important that the basic ingredients are produced to the best possible standards. I hope you find the confidence to go away from today to see how you fit that process. It is integrity, wherever you are in the supply chain, that will make your business successful.”
Princess Royal thanked the Council and organisers for all their hard work in putting it together, and their own passion, interest and commitment to the rural economy and the farming sector, before meeting with some of the conference delegates to find out more about what they do and what they have gained from the conference in 2018.