Council Members


Here you will find details of the Oxford Farming Conference directors and honorary advisors.

Our council brings together people with different experience and backgrounds, and sometimes divergent opinions, but with shared goals.

About the OFC
Council Members

Martin Davies - Chairman (Wales)

Martin Davies

As President and CEO Europe of Westchester Group Investment Management, Martin is responsible for farmland investment in Europe for the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) and other institutions that they invest with. Previously he lead the deployment of institutional investors capital in farmland and farming businesses in New Zealand, Australia, Romania, Poland and Chile for a London-based asset management company. After 13 years with the Cooperative Group Farms, his lead into agricultural investing was five years spent working on projects for private investors in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Martin is a member of the steering group for Agribenchmark, a global agricultural benchmarking initiative, and was a 2006 Nuffield Scholar.

David Turner - Honorary Treasurer (East Anglia)

David Turner

David is a principal in David Turner & Co - a firm of Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers which specialises in landed estates and agriculture. Prior to the formation of David Turner & Co, David was a director with Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP. In addition to the compliance services offered by David Turner & Co he has wide-ranging experience in handling one-off assignments – including work for the major banks, government institutions and PLCs. David is a governor at Bishop Burton College in Beverley East Yorkshire, where he is also the chair of the audit committee. He has a small farm in East Anglia which he operates via a manager contractor agreement.

Tom Allen-Stevens - (Oxfordshire)

Tom Allen-Stevens

Tom has a 170ha arabe farm near Faringdon and is editor of Crop Production Magazine (CPM). On leaving Royal Agricultural College, he worked as a verifier for Assured Combinable Crops Scheme, before joining Crops as a technical writer. He became arable editor for FWi, then joined Oxford-based PR company, Mistral. More recently he was manager for LEAF's Open Farm Sunday and is a director for Farmign in the Park that aims to put on a major agricultural event in London. He has won several farming journalism awards and has a passion for innovation in agriculture. The farm at home comprises combinable arable crops and enhanced environmental features, while the original farm buildings have been converted to office space, providing a thriving business community. 

DR John Gilliland OBE - (Northern Ireland)

John Gilliland

John Gilliland, Director of Agriculture of Devenish Nutrition Ltd and Non Executive Director of SRUC, is highly respected and recognised as an excellent communicator. He specialises in being multidisciplined and brings an entrepreneurial, holistic and innovative approach to all issues he has been engaged with. He has been an award winning innovator, practitioner and strategic business leader; while at the same time, he has been a policy advocate for Devolved, National and European Governments and a Non Executive Director of a collection of Non Departmental and Regulatory Bodies. A former President of the Ulster Farmers Union and a former Director of the HGCA, he currently runs a 400 acre arable farm in N. Ireland, while also bring a Director of Original Heating Ltd and Resourceful Organics Ltd.

Alan Laidlaw - (East Lothian)

Alan Laidlaw

Alan Laidlaw is chief executive of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) – a registered charity with a remit to promote and protect the interests of rural Scotland.  

Based at the RHASS’s headquarters at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Alan was appointed to the role in August 2016 after spending 11 years with the Crown Estate Scotland, latterly as Head of Property.   He is a trained chartered surveyor, a director of the Oxford Farming Conference and an Associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies (ARAgS).

In his spare time Alan enjoys playing rugby and exploring Scotland’s countryside.  He lives in East Lothian with his wife and young son.

Robert Lasseter - (Dorset)

Robert Lasseter

Robert Lasseter started his farming business in 1994, outdoor sows with an annual grazing licence, selling weaners off the field. He expanded to sell bacon pigs through the Freedom Food scheme, and diversified into retailing with a business partnership called Genesis Farmers, which was sold in 2012. He started arable farming in 2007, and now produces grain to feed his pigs, creating a more sustainable mixed farm.  
He is a Nuffield Scholar, and member of the IAgMan Leadership Development programme.  He is currently a director of Wessex Grain, a board member of HGCA,  a Governor of the UK’s first land based Studio School and of Kingston Maurward College. His main interest is “increasing sustainable living worldwide.”

Caroline Millar - (Angus)

Caroline Millar

Caroline and relatives live on the family farm at Balkello, Auchterhouse, near Dundee. The farm is a 650 acre mixed arable farm producing beef, lamb, wheat, oil seed rape and malting barley. They also farm tourists, using the natural beauty of the farmland, views of the local area, privacy, fresh air, and locally farmed food and drink to provide a unique experience to 5 star couples staying at three luxury Hideaways. Developed into a farm diversification in 2005, the business uses 0.6 of an acre and produces comparable profit levels to the farm. The Hideaway Experience was in the national finals of the Scottish Tourism Thistle Awards for best self-service accommodation in Scotland in 2013 and aim to grow the business further. Caroline is also passionate about developing farm tourism and leisure as a means of driving additional income for farmers, engaging with the public, and growing the rural economy. A recent Nuffield Scholar, Caroline aims to share her Nuffield experience to develop agritourism as a key sector of tourism within Scotland.

Julie Robinson - (Cambridgeshire)

Julie Robinson

Following a career in steel and other commercial sectors, Julie switched to law and now heads up the Agriculture team at Roythornes' solicitors. She describes one of her main tasks as "getting farmers onto land to grow stuff". With several years as chief legal advisor at the National Farmers' Union behind her, Julie apreciates the wider policy issues that determine the direction and fortunes of the food and farming sector in the UK and Europe. She was a member of the Future Farming Group, a government/industry body which reported in July 2013 and looked at the key barriers to the future prosperity of the sector in England. When not advising farmers, Julie is Registrar for the Diocese of Lincoln.  

Charlotte Smith - (London)

Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Smith is a writer and broadcaster. She currently presents Farming Today and other rural programmes for BBC Radio 4, and for more than a decade was a presenter on BBC1's Countryfile. Charlotte grew up in rural Leicestershire and started her career as a teenaged volunteer at the local radio station. She has worked across the BBC in both news and sport, helping to launch BBC Radio 5Live, covering an Olympic games, and even bog snorkelling. She fell into rural programmes accidentally after a conversation in a lift and has reported on both the highs and lows of agriculture and the countryside over the past two decades.

Will Surman - (Brussels)

Will Surman

Will is a Director of Communications at CropLife International, a trade body that champions the role of plant science innovations to drive sustainable agriculture around the world. Having grown up on the family farm, agriculture has been at the heart of Will's work, whether plying his trade as a political advisor to the European Parliament, as a freelance journalist in Argentina, senior reporter for Farmers Guardian or as a communicator and parliamentary advisor for the NFU in Brussels. He is an experienced communications professional and political lobbyist with a strong knowledge of UK, EU and international agriculture and a deep desire to tackle issues of food security, climate change and biodiversity. In his spare time, Will is a trustee for the Farmers Overseas Action Group, where much of his work is focused on helping farmers in Uganda to reduce post-harvest losses. In the remaining hours of the day, Will is studying for a part-time Masters in Sustainable Development at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SAOS).