local food columnHaving spent two days at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, I return to Lancaster full of energy and new ideas to share with our local sustainable food network.

In its tenth year, the 2019 Oxford Real Farming Conference saw 1000 progressive food thinkers and doers gather to share experience to help us shift towards a more sustainable and fair food system (and 600 more people were on the waiting list!)

Attendees were diverse in terms of interests and backgrounds: larger scale organic farmers, peasant bakers, small-scale agro ecological growers, food campaigners, academics and Michael Gove were all in the mix. It was also heartening to see women running a large number of sessions, including a food, farming and feminism session where the role of women within the future of farming was explored. (Despite women making up 43% of the farm labour force, the percentage of women in leadership roles is very low- around 4%.)

Some of the event’s workshops were live streamed, creating a rich online resource: www.youtube.com/user/realfarmlife/videos I’d recommend checking out Sustain’s session on Brexit ‘state of play’ for food, farming and fishing – it’s extremely informative!

Also recorded is Richard Perkin’s talk on how to make small farm works. Richard discussed his experience of setting up and managing a farm in Sweden using Holistic Land Management as a design framework. Although a great case study that proves (with numbers) that farming can be profitable whilst building top soil at incredible rates, I question the ethics of a farming model that is so reliant on the commodification of animals? What are your thoughts?

IMG_20190104_160835 Also of interest is the session on regenerative supply chains. LUSH Cosmetics, Jyoti Fernandes from the Land Workers’ Alliance and Hodmedods explored the opportunities and barriers to creating regenerative food supply chains, drawing on their own work and experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this session and how we can create local- to Lancaster- regenerative food supply chains.

However the session that stood out for me (that wont make it online) is the ‘Food Journey’ – facilitated by Mama D from Community Centred Knowledge. This immersive session had around 30 participants blindfolded and taken on a ‘food journey’ from the dawn of agriculture to 2019. The ‘journey’ started in a forest where humans lived alongside all species, eating food that was simple, earthy, sensual and completely unknown to me! We then slowly moved through the cruel process of separation: the slave trade was established, the earth pillaged and the food we ate gradually became more familiar and disturbingly processed and distant from the earth it came from…Should we bring this food journey to Lancaster?

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