Earlier this year I attended my first Real Food & Farming Conference in Oxford, thanks to a bursary ticket. As I was feeling broke and broken when I applied for the bursary ticket, I had hoped to get inspired, and I did!
The first workshop of the day was the climate justice one, and Gail from XR started by thanking farmers who were involved in agro-ecology for what they were doing. She said she knows we’re “under-valued, under-appreciated and under-paid.” As someone who became an organic grower after being a climate change campaigner I needed to hear that. Nowadays the growing is so all-encompassing there’s no time for campaigning, but I still question whether this is the most useful way to combat climate change and feel guilty about not doing enough.
Oli from Landworkers Alliance and Ecological Land Co-op gave a really good talk, and I actually want to nick some bits from it. He really conveyed how being a small local grower links into a much bigger picture of a sustainable food system, and this is something I think it’s difficult to convey to our market and veg box customers.
Then I went to a session aimed at grower’s called ‘Market Gardening at Lauriston Farm: reviving small raised beds within a mixed farm.’ The Dutch man who ran it Andre Kleinjans was totally charming, and I got a few technical tips to try at our market garden. Then I went to a session called ‘Making your Food Enterprise more efficient’ which maybe was a slightly disngenuous title as it was actually about the Open Food Network, and putting your crops on this platform to sell.
The final session of the day I went to was ‘What will post-Brexit trade deals mean for our farmers, environment. welfare and food standards,’and this was really interesting. There was a woman called Jean Blayock who was a trade negotiator with Global Justice Now, and was incredibly passionate and engaging. She explained what was going in laypersons terms, like that Teresa May’s government had been working to ‘close regulatory alignment’ with the EU, but Boris Johnson had changed this to ‘substantially equivalence’ which was woolly terminology. She also said that the decisions were being made behind closed doors. If it sounds all too depressing, she did end by saying TTIP was stopped on the streets.
With my head exploding and my body protesting I’d been sat down all day, I walked through Oxford and back to where I was staying where I had a lovely dinner and drank too much red wine.