Meet the Director: Tom Levitt

Tom Levitt

Who are you?

Tom Levitt, a Cheshire-based father approaching middle-age (oh no!)

What is your day job?

I work as a freelance journalist and editor. Who I work for is pretty varied at present - a mixture of nationals and the farming press. I have also been a guest lecturer on food for the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales and wrote a report earlier this year on how climate change will impact UK agriculture.

When did you become a director?

I joined the team last year. I’d just finished a Nuffield Farming Scholarship [on the future of the liquid milk category] and suddenly had time and enthusiasm on my side. I’d always enjoyed the conference - it had become a regular New Year fixture for me ever since I first attended as a young farming journalist in 2005 - so was really keen to try to contribute to running it by becoming a director.

How did you get involved in journalism?

I started out getting involved in my student newspaper at York University. After doing a journalism masters I got a job as a trainee for a media publishing company that owned Farmers Guardian, which is where I ended up getting my first job as a journalist. And the rest is history!

What story have you most enjoyed writing about it and why?

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but writing about the long-running quest for recognition by sufferers of OP poisoning felt very worthwhile. In contrast, highlighting Tesco’s use of fictional farm names on its branded meat products was a little bit more light-hearted.

What do you think is the best thing about British farming? 

Those committed to making British farming a viable and worthwhile livelihood for themselves and future generations. You can’t help but be impressed and influenced by young, intelligent and committed men and women who are proving the doubters wrong with their ‘can-do’ attitude and an openness and willingness to make their businesses work. Also, I do think our industry is much more open than any other in the world. It makes life hard for those working under the spotlight, but should give us faith in how good for the most part our industry is.

Best influence on your career so far?         

I’ve been lucky enough to be helped and inspired by some great journalists during my career so far. Alistair Driver (former political editor at Farmers Guardian) and Vickie Rogers (former editor at Farmers Guardian) where both incredibly helpful in getting me started in my career and Alistair remains a much relied upon sounding board. They imbued a long-standing commitment to always be helpful and nice to younger journalists starting out in their careers.

OFC is going digital in 2020/21, how do you see this “new digital era” evolving and supporting the agricultural industry?

OFC has had a digital side to it for a number of years now. You only have to look at the viewing figures for speeches and talks that we've uploaded online over the past few years to see there is an audience and demand for OFC in digital. Our aim is to make what we offer even better! Of course, we all love the networking that is made possible by a physical conference.

You have selected “The Case for Expansion” as your #OFCBitesize topic, a theme that was first explored at the 1966 conference. What will your session cover and why did this topic appeal to you?

I like to go somewhat against the grain so the idea that there is a case for expansion in UK farming in a time of stress seemed like a great question to explore. The Grosvenor farm is a perfect place to ask this question given their size and scale (and confidence in the future) and them being part of a larger (£500 million-plus) food and farming investment business. Come join the debate!