The Oxford Real Farming Conference is an established start to the new year and this year we will be there in force with our Research Coordinator Kim Graham, our Projects Officer Ọlá Ayòrindé and our Director Mark Walton all in attendance. Below Mark looks forward to some of the highlights of a packed programme.
Looking back on my reflections from last year, it’s great to see that thoughts and ideas being discussed then are now germinating and growing …. in particular work on the future of County Farms, the development of a more diverse land and food movement that places social justice at its core, and a wider ongoing debate about land policy.
We are delighted that following on from the session we co-hosted last year on the future of County Farms we have been able to undertake research into the issue this year with CPRE, NEF and Who Owns England. You can read our report here. Kim from Shared Assets will be on a ‘Future of County Farms’ panel to be followed by breakout groups to discuss how County Farms can be supported in the future (Christopher Room, Thursday, 14:30-15:30).
The issue of racial justice will be a major theme of the conference and we’ve been working with the newly established Land In Our Names (LION) to organise sessions at the conference, and a caucus for people of colour afterwards on Friday 10th January.
A keynote speaker (Main Hall, Wednesday, 12:00-13:00) at this year’s conference is Leah Penniman, author, activist, farmer and founder of Soul Fire Farm in New York. Leah is committed to ending racism and injustice in our food system and has developed a range of projects and programmes working to increase farmland stewardship by people of colour, restore Afro-indigenous farming practices, and end food apartheid. There’s a great Farmerama podcast about her work here.
LION and Shared Assets are co-hosting ‘Farming So White’, a workshop space to explore why land ownership and farming are still dominated by white people in the UK; and what narratives and strategies are needed to challenge and change this (Conference Room, Wednesday, 14:30-15:30). Ọlá Ayòrindé from Shared Assets and Josina Calliste from LION will be joined by Leah Penniman to explore barriers to farming for people of colour in Britain and how to overcome them and to consider historical relationships to land for people of colour through the lens of empire and colonialism.
There are also sessions on:
- Power Privilege and Biodiversity (St Aldates Tavern, Wednesday, 13:30-14:30) with Ian Solomon-Kawall from May Project Gardens
- A discussion by and for LGBTQIA+ landworkers and allies hosted by the Landworkers Alliance (Barristers Room, Wednesday, 16:00 – 17:00)
- Faith Farming and the Land (Long Room, Thursday, 10:30-11:30)
- Putting Social Justice at the Heart of your Farm (Old Library, Thursday, 13:30-14:30)
Finally, it’s great to see continuing discussion of wider land issues at ORFC 2020, with a session of the development of a People’s Land Policy (St Aldates Church, Wednesday, 10:30-11:30) and a discussion on the recent Land For The Many report commissioned by the Labour Party (Main Hall, Thursday, 12:00-13:00).
ORFC is always a wonderful start to the year – we look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones there!
You can find the full ORFC 2020 programme here.