What Does 2024 Hold For British Farming?

By Jenny Jefferies

6 months ago

Highlights from the 2024 farming calendar


In our column, husband-and-wife duo John and Jenny Jefferies will give us some insight into life on their south Cambridgeshire farm. John is a farmer, while Jenny is a food writer, having penned books like For The Love Of The Land. They’re both passionate about British farming, and will share their expertise with C&TH on a bi-monthly basis. This January, Jenny shares the key British farming events for 2024.

Big Farming Events To Look Out For In 2024

As the dawn of a new year slowly descends upon us, 2024 brings us hope. Hope for the future and perhaps hope for improvement in the British agricultural industry. After a long, torrid, 13-year Tory government, we have the promise of a general election. But aside from that, the British farming calendar alone looks bright, cheerful and something worth celebrating. This month, I will highlight many events to put in your diary, and if you can get a ticket, to one or all, you’re in for a treat.

The Oxford Farming Conference

The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) is an annual conference for UK farmers that takes place in Oxford, in the first week of January. This year it is taking place between 3 – 5 January 2024, bringing together people from all corners of the agricultural, rural and food sectors, encouraging a hugely diverse range of thinking, which generates ideas and positive solutions for the future. 

This year’s theme is The Power of Diversity, with speakers including Sarah Dunning OBE, a second generation farmer who operates motorway services in Cumbria, Scotland and Gloucestershire. There’s also Adam Bedford, who is the Projects Director at Fera Science and in his spare time, he runs the Fieldwork Book Club, reading books on food, farming and the natural world with over 500 members. Then there’s Andy Cato, co-founder of Wildfarmed, an award-winning mixed arable and livestock farmer, and who used to be one half of Groove Armada. Also in attendance will be Donna Edmonds, the CEO of the Education Farms for City Children which is a charity that connects disadvantaged children and young people to nature and the countryside, Minette Batters who is the President of the NFU, and Steve Barclay, the current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The event culminates in a prestigious supper providing everyone with top notch networking that is not to be missed.

3 – 5 January 2024, ofc.org.uk

The Oxford Real Farming Conference

Not to be confused with the above, the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) is an alternative farming conference running from 4 – 5 January 2024, which works with partners in the UK and internationally, bringing the real food and farming movement together. The ORFC attracts farmers, growers, activists, policymakers and researchers from around the world who are interested in transforming our food system.

ORFC has always been the place to share progressive ideas and subjects include agroecology, regenerative agriculture, organic farming and indigenous food and farming systems. The broad programme delves deep into farming practices and techniques, as well as addressing the bigger questions relating to our food and farming system. However, the absolute highlight of the ORFC this year, in my humble opinion, will be the premier of a brand new film celebrating the quiet movement of regenerative agriculture here in the UK called Six Inches Of Soil from the Director Colin Ramsay. If you miss it here, go and see it at a screening near you immediately! You can watch the trailer at sixinchesofsoil.org.

4 – 5 January 2024, orfc.org.uk

 

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EA Sustain

EA Sustain is a festival about environment, culture and entrepreneurship, taking place from 13 – 14 January 2024 at Firstsite, Colchester. The mission of this annual festival is to enhance the sustainability of East Anglia, to increase knowledge and awareness of environmental issues via presentations, talks and performances by top environmentalists and environmental artists. The line up includes a formidable farming bunch including Helen Browning, the CEO of the Soil Association; Caroline Lucas, a British politician who has twice lead the Green Party in England and Wales; John Pawsey, a regenerative farmer at Shimpling Park Farm in Bury St Edmunds; plus many other influential and inspiring people to move the sustainability, farming, food and fashion agenda forward. 

13 – 14 January 2024, easustain.com

Rootstock

On Valentine’s Day, Rootstock is a one day forward-looking conference for farmers in the South West, bringing farmers and researchers together in Exeter to explore how farmers can build sustainable profitable businesses in tune with natural processes. Sessions will be based around contextualised science, with speakers being a mixture of expert scientists and practical farmers. The conference will inform, discuss, and question current farming ideas, including regenerative approaches and the latest technical developments.

14 February 2024, rootstock.ag

Cereals

On 11 and 12 June 2024 at Newnham Farm at Bygrave Woods in Hertfordshire, Cereals is the premier arable event in the UK, involving all parts of the industry in discussion critical to our future. Situated on a working farm, Cereals is developed with input from our farmer and exhibitor advisory boards and the main aim is to equip farmers with the latest knowledge, ideas and technology to help them embrace all of the challenges and opportunities which will arise in the coming years. 

11 and 12 June 2024, cerealsevent.co.uk

Groundswell regenerative farming

Groundswell

Groundswell

However, in direct contrast to Cereals is the regenerative agriculture festival at Lannock Manor Farm on 26 and 27 June 2024. Entering its 8th year, the Groundswell event provides a forum for farmers and anyone interested in food production or the environment to learn about the theory and practical applications of conservation agriculture or regenerative systems, including no-till, cover crops and re-introducing livestock into the arable rotation, with a view to improving soil health.

Groundswell is a practical show aimed at anyone who wants to understand the farmer’s core asset, the soil, and make better informed decisions. It is a two-day event featuring talks, forums and discussions from leading international soil health experts, experienced arable and livestock farmers, agricultural policy experts, direct-drill demonstrations and AgTech innovators.

26 and 27 June 2024, groundswellag.com

Carbon Calling

And keep a look out for Carbon Calling in Cumbria, a farmer-led movement led by Liz Genever and Nic Renison which hosts an annual conference – described as ‘the missing link between conventional and regenerative agriculture, and Nic and Liz make the connection with a hefty dose of knowledge and humour.’ This is not polished farm talk – it’s two farmers sharing the good stuff in a way that makes sense. Dates for 2024 are yet to be confirmed…

carboncalling.farm