Oxford Real Food and Farming Conference 2022

by Amy Childe

I woke up at 8.30am, ready for the Oxford Real Food and Farming Conference, and then realised that there was no session till 2pm! I didn’t know if I should have felt joy or rage, but I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I used the time to look over the agenda for the next few days. Let me tell you there were a lot, at some times five sessions running concurrently, so I had to choose wisely.

Inflamed: deep medicine and the anatomy of justice

Josh and Amy trimming up our sustainbly produced garlic

The talk on inflammation brought to light that we live in a pretty toxic environment, and that capitalism was a big contributor to this. That we should destroy capitalism and re-awaken more healthy relationships with the earth, not polluting our waters and cutting down forests. To undo the damage we have done, to heal, to stitch back together what we have ripped apart. And to start this by making farming an act of healing, healing the land and cleansing the water.

Hedgerows: the green veins of our landscapes

This had me falling in love with hedgerows all over again. They talked about how they provide shelter, food and habitats for our wildlife and bugs. Serving as a highway for the smaller mammals to travel through, take shelter or make their nests in. Hedges also provide food for wildlife all year round. Or at least they should but due to the repeated cutting/shaping of the hedges it is hard for the animals and birds that don’t hibernate through the colder months. The biodiversity that we had has already dropped due to the mass farming and pasturing, to provide food for our growing population. They talked about ways to halt the decrease in biodiversity in our country side by trimming of the hedges and letting them grow wilder.

Staying rooted in a shifting world- herbalism workshop with the Seed Sistas

The Seed Sistas wore unique clothes for the session as they were each representing a fruit. They told us about how people had been using plants for centuries to help with ailments and illness. The Seed Sistas are qualified Doctors, but they seek out the other side of medicine, and went back to the roots of all medicinal practices. They travelled to many countries and talked to the native people and how they used the local plants to help keep them healthy.

Good farming as a spiritual practice!

Satish Kumar gardened with his mother when he was nine and became a monk when he was 17. He said himself and a friend, travelled from India to London by foot with no money. Walking through forests, desserts and snow, and relying on the kindness of other people, to feed and clothe him. It took Satish 2-3 years to do it, but he did It! This amazed me, because I couldn’t have the courage to do it, but he did, and it was inspiring. Satish went on to co-found Schumacher College, an agricultural college providing many courses. They have their own plot of land that the students use as they study, and the veg they grow at the college is used to feed the students.  I’m not going to lie I thought about joining the college, but the distance is a bit far for me.

While we grow our fruit, veg and flowers, no matter where it is, be it in our gardens, little allotments, market gardens or farms, it can give us a spiritual connection to the earth, the plants and the nature. I can’t speak for every farmer, nor Satish, but some bits I resonated with far more than others but as I have worked at Reddy Lane Market Garden. I have grown plants from seed to harvest. You see the joy they have when you deliver the fresh produce to customers, and I can’t describe it, it is a very fulfilling experience 😊

Amy looking for caterpillars to re-locate away from our kales

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