Meet the Director: Andrew Pitts

Andrew Pitts

We caught up with OFC Director Andrew Pitts who is in his final year of a three-year term and will chair the December #OFCBitesize webinar.

Tell us a little about you, Andrew.

I am the son of a first-generation farmer who started with nothing, and have always challenged conventional thinking. 

In partnership with my brother William, we now farm 2,100 acres in Northamptonshire. The arable business specialises in seed production, property letting, contracting, green energy production and I am actively involved with international environmental consultancy. 

I am always looking for business development opportunities and stumbled across The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and loved it. It is an absolutely inspirational start to the year and never fails to deliver. It does exactly what it says on the tin: inspires, informs, and challenges. And that’s what British agriculture needs.  

How long you have been an OFC Director?  

This is my third and final year as Director. Unfortunately, Sally, Ian and I will be unable to have the normal final year director experience, but we’re doing the best we can to make it a terrific experience for everyone through our Bitesize sessions and the online conference in January. 

Could you please describe for me your first experience of the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC)? 

I first attended in 2013, expecting it to be full-on, and a bit stuffy, but immediately realised it was the most welcoming conference I’ve been to. At the OFC, everyone is interesting, and everyone is interested in who you are and what you do. 

It occurred to me that OFC is a really well-kept secret and a networking opportunity that I didn’t know existed. I’ve never come back from Oxford without answers to questions, new projects to think about, and new business opportunities to explore. Although it will be slightly different this year, I’m really glad we will be using the Remo platform to allow  networking and interaction to happen in the most authentic way we can. 

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today? 

I cannot stand being told what to do by people who know less than me about the subject. The thing that propelled me forward was a desire to help give balance to the biased, single issue pressure groups who portray an inaccurate picture of what a family farming business is.  

I wanted to help change agriculture for the better. Our farm has a high profile and we have been able to effect change on government policy with our data. But, pressure groups are trying to force agriculture into a dangerous place and we need effective leadership to create positive change. 

What has been the highlight of your Directorship so far? 

Helping DEFRA to change their policy on existing high-quality environmental policy in 2020.  

What OFC session or speakers has most impacted you and why? 

It’s always the ‘Inspirational Farmers’ session that stays with me. The bravery to take on what can often be an astonishing challenge, and bring it to fruition, is inspirational and I always go away after listening to them with the mindset that I can face anything. 

In your opinion, at this present time, what is the biggest challenge for British agriculture? 

There is no bigger challenge than global warming and the massive impact it is having on our profession, and the world as a whole, so when I had a chance to do a Bitesize webinar focused on ‘A Climate of Change’ I grabbed it with both hands. 

Oxford is entering a new chapter taking the conference digitally, what will your Bitesize session address? 

Climate change is the biggest threat to the human species in our history and my session is all about carbon: measuring it and capturing it. In doing this it will have a marketable value. There is a big business opportunity for British agriculture to  utilise the profits in carbon trading. 

The recent pandemic has allowed us all time to think about our mental health, what do you do to a maintain a positive wellbeing?  

I’m so lucky to live in the countryside that I have helped shape over 20-30 years. I have a fantastic wife, great kids and two dogs, and over 2,000 acres to play in. 

During the pandemic, it’s been fantastic to see hundreds of people finding a new connection with our countryside and appreciating the hard work farmers put in to maintain and improve it. 

What is your guilty pleasure – book, film, TV programme? 

Good red wine paired with great quality chocolate! What I’ve been missing most through lockdown is seeing friends for a curry or a beer.