11 January 2021
Meet Hollie Hunter, who attended the online Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) this year as a scholar on behalf of Harper Adams. The 21 year-old is currently studying BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management and was nominated to join the Scholarship Programme by the Head of Agriculture, Russell Readman. Here she shares about her experience of the event and the benefits she has gained from it:
The OFC Scholars’ Programme is sponsored by McDonald’s, welcoming a mix of individuals from different backgrounds and academic experiences. The programme started with a Scholars’ insight day in December, with the opportunity to meet and greet the cohort, listen to a presentation from McDonald’s in conjunction with McCain, and undertake group workshops in equality, diversity and inclusion. As part of the package, McDonald’s also sent us a scholars’ pack, including a notepad and travel mug.
As part of the Scholars’ Programme you are invited to attend the OFC 2021. The main event took place on 7th January, but there were additional scholar and fringe events on the 6th.
The scholars’ event involved working with other scholars to produce ideas on how the agricultural industry can recruit and retain quality talent from multidisciplinary backgrounds; an important topic to bring new and developing ideas into the agricultural industry. The fringe events involved DEFRA’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme; the future of British livestock, and examples of farmers developing sustainable and resilient business models fit for the future. One of these farmers included George Young, who had such passion and enthusiasm for agroecology.
The main OFC event began with a politics session, in which Rt Hon George Eustice MP spoke about gene editing as needing to “utilise the tools which science provides us to ensure profitable food production and sustainable land management”. Following this there was a trade session, a session from John Elkington the ‘Godfather of sustainability’ and a science lecture from Prof. Tim Benton.
One of the other sessions covered was surrounding mental health in agriculture - a very important topic for the whole industry and a great issue to be covered at the conference.
My favourite session was the inspiring farmers session, with talks from three farmers - Sarah Appleby, Angus Davison and Paul Costello - all with amazing stories of developing their businesses and encouraging young people to follow in their footsteps.
Before the closing of the main event was a speech from HRH Princess Royal.
The evening event consisted of a debate with the motion: “This house believes that first generation farmers are better than forth”. It was a great event with all speakers expressing their opinion with so much energy and enthusiasm.
Although all of the events I attended as part of the Scholars’ Programme were virtual, the events were organised, well-structured and provided invaluable networking opportunities.
I would thoroughly recommend anyone to take up the opportunity to be part of the programme and I would like to thank Harper Adams for the experience and the OFC directors for organising such an amazing programme, even in the current circumstances.