Romy Jackson from Scotland attended The Oxford Farming Conference as a Scholar in 2018, sponsored by RWMT. Here she shares her experience.
I was lucky to attend with a number of SAYFC members as well as meeting countless new contacts on the trip, it changed my perspective on agriculture, work and the future of our industry immeasurably. The direct and indirect benefits to me personally have been significant and I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the event in such a significant year for UK agriculture.
The three day conference was kick started by a Scholar’s meeting which was sponsored by Mcdonald’s, with approx. 50 Scholars in attendance, it was great to see a young cross sector of our industry around the room. Having the opportunity to work with other like minded peers at the beginning of the event was a nice way to set the tone for what was to come. After some introduction to media interviews and welcome from Matthew Naylor the group explored the city of Oxford.
In the afternoon I was fortunate enough to attend the AHDB fringe event titled “Inspiring farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world” which sparked passionate discussion from the audience.
I had heard a great deal about the dinners at the OFC and the Keble Conference did not disappoint. The ornate surroundings still allowed for a relaxed atmosphere with the banquet style layout. Sat opposite my university Chancellor and next to a passionate easy care sheep farmer, it is like no other dinner I expect to attend for a long time!
The Thursday began with the hotly anticipated Politics session. To be able to see Rt Hon Michael Gove MP make his speech first hand was a great experience. The atmosphere at the conference following the speech encouraged debate and wider thinking on both Michael Gove and Ted McKinney’s presentations. It is not often that such open and high level discussion is had with anyone and everyone at an event, yet OFC was successful in encouraging all attendees to engage with the agenda.
It is easy to say that the event had wider benefits to me, but this speech was a direct example of just that. I was recently asked about the contents of Michael Gove’s speech in an interview for a travel trip to California which I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend at the end of 2018. Having attended OFC, I was able to answer genuinely and from an informed perspective that I do not feel I could have gained from merely reading the contents online.
Following the politics was the Digital Revolution Session, a mixture of thought provoking, admirable and inspirational the speakers; Amy Barthorpe, Chris Sheldrick and Kit Franklin had something to offer everyone in the room. Chris Sheldrick, CEO of What3Words, had an instant impact with Scholars using his method of location identifying instead of postcodes for a meet up at the end of the day!
After a sociable lunch we heard from three farmers in the Inspiring Farmers’ Session. Duncan McConchie was flying the flag for north of the border and managed to make the whole room want to holiday in Dumfries and Galloway! Tim Papworth reminded us not to cut corners and showed us how to persevere through adversity. Brazilian farmer Carla Mayara Borges earnt a great deal of respect from the room, conveying her story in her second language (English) and detailing her ambition and success setting up a new venture away from home.
Professor Chris Elliott filled the next slot, I enjoyed his visions of the future of food consumption with him mentioning package scanning that would detail true traceability for consumers.
The formal part of the day was drawn to a close by HRH The Princess Royal. At the time of attending, I was in training for the SAYFC Speech Making competition. By the end of Thursday I had seen over 20 speakers on stage all with their own style and mannerisms which I noted and learnt from in a different way. However, without a doubt I found HRH The Princess Royal the most captivating, her formal yet welcoming tone combined with up to date observations of the speakers she had just watched emphasised her intelligence and added gravitas to her more technical points.
Read Romy's full report including her view on The Oxford Union Debate, Comedy Night, Friday and her final take her home messages and why she now has a different view on food restaurants and consumption trends.