Fertile ground for collaboration at Oxford Real Farming Conference

Oxford real farming conference 2018The Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) in January will be a valuable opportunity to develop understanding and collectively plan. Now in its eighth year, it has become an event that gets highlighted on our calendar early in the year.

ORFC delegates come from across food and farming, with all having an interest in new agricultural models. They represent those interested in meeting global food system challenges in original, environmentally sustainable ways. The point of the ORFC is not simply to attack the status quo but to look ahead — to ask what the world really needs, and what really can be done.

This kind of thinking is a natural fit for the Permacultre Association, which hosts a biennial autumn national permaculture convergence. Sharing and self-organising are strengths of the permaculture network and the Permaculture Association has a participatory structure so members can be directly involved.

One clear pattern across the ORFC programme and in the sessions below is collaboration. We have common goals and shared interests - together we can design an abundant world in which we care for the earth,  each other and future generations, whilst living within nature’s limits.

Permaculture Hub

At ORFC 2018 we will co-host a permaculture hub, with Permaculture Magazine and other members. It's a place to discuss all things permaculture design. You can also pick up books, information posters and updates on our projects.

We are also convening a dinner at Thali Cafe - a chance to enjoy delicious food together. If you're one of the lucky people that snapped up an ORFC ticket before they sold out, you can now book a place for the Thursday evening meal.

Five sessions of note on the ORFC programme

All of the sessions on the programme tackle pertinent issues and are sure to be fertile ground for lively discussions and learning. We're looking forward to two days of immersion, as well as the conversations at the edges.

Here are five sessions we've pulled out to give you a taster of what's on offer.

Permaculture and International Development

4 January, 9.30am - 10.30am

Chair: George McAllister (CAWR). Speakers: Elizabeth Westaway (practitioner, researcher, consultant), Lachlan McKenzie (Permaculture Association Britain), Chris Evans (Himalayan Permaculture Centre), Anne-Marie Mayer (Nutrition Consultant). 

The session on Permaculture and International Development will look at the broader picture of bringing about the Agrarian Renaissance through a permaculture/agroecological approach to food production, including agroforestry and the transformation of food and nutrition in International Development contexts.


Creating gardens of sanctuary

5 January, 9.00am - 10.00am

Speakers: Ben Margolis (The Grange, Norfolk), Sophie Antonelli (The Green Backyard). 

There are more people than ever being forced to flee their homes and seeking sanctuary elsewhere due to war, economics, famine, climate change and persecution. Many people come from areas with a strong culture of farming and kitchen gardening and bring with them skills and knowledge which could benefit our own agricultural systems. 

For many others, gardens and growing spaces are therapeutic, safe places away from the trauma of daily life. How can our community gardens, city farms and other growing spaces become places of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers offering therapy, skills, integration and potentially employment?

The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, the Permaculture Association, City of Sanctuary and The Grange are exploring this question and in this session will report some of their initial findings gathered from surveys and case studies, and will invite your input for the next stages of the project.

Help us to create more Thriving Communities. Please fill in the survey at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PermacultureThrivingCommunitiess



Miraculous abundance: one quarter acre, two French farmers and enough food to feed the world

5 January, 9.00am - 10.00am

Speakers: Perrine Hervé-Gruyer (La Ferme du Bec Hellouin), chaired by Robert Fraser (Real Farming Trust). 

Showing that small scale farming can provide enough food to feed the world is the challenge that Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer are undertaking at La Ferme du Bec Hellouin in Normandy. In this session, Perrine will show you how using the principles of permaculture and bio-intensive methods, along with other techniques learned from organic pioneers and indigenous tribes from around the world, enables them to be highly productive and profitable on a small scale whilst protecting the biosphere and sequestering carbon.


Access to land for agroecological farming – getting practical while dreaming big

5 January, 10.30am - 11.30am

Speakers: Elise Wach (CAWR), Chris Smaje (smallfarmfuture.org). 

Increasing access to land for small scale and agroecological farmers is an essential step in transitioning our food systems to become more sustainable, nourishing and fair. Currently, land distribution is highly unequal, land prices and are extremely high and many producers struggle to obtain the planning permission to live on their farms. 

This session will provide participants with an understanding of practical ways in which more small scale and agroecological farmers could access land for farming in the UK. It includes strategies for working within the existing planning system and for changing national- and local-level policies. Information will be useful both to individuals looking for land as well as those wishing to be involved in collective movements for changing land access and distribution. The session builds on the findings from a joint collaboration of the Land Workers’ Alliance and the Institute of Development Studies over the past two years, and incorporates participatory learning methods.


Oxford real farming conference 2018Farming, Food and Medicine. A Healthy 'Menage a Trois'?

5 January, 2.30pm - 3.30pm

With Anne-Marie Mayer, Dr Sarah Myhill, Elizabeth Westaway, Izabella Natrins, Marina O'Connell, Charlotte Hollins. Chaired by Sue Pritchard.

A ‘back to the future’ conversation about how farmers, nutritionists, doctors and chefs could work together to bring about cohesive and sustainable changes for the food system. How can farming, growing and cooking food improve nutritional quality and get citizens eating healthy, affordable food?


You can follow and contribute to discussions on social media - #ORFC18 on Twitter.
We'll share some highlights on our social media channels during and after the conference.



An extended interview with Colin Tudge - author, thinker, and co-founder of the Oxford Real Farming Conference. In this long form interview, Colin expounds on the themes of agriculture and our food and why a change is not just necessary, but entirely possible.