BSc (Hons) Agriculture student Mary Brookes was selected to attend the 2023 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) Scholars’ Programme earlier this month through her Progressive Young Farmer placement with McDonald’s. She was among a varied cohort of students, staff and alumni to attend this year’s conference – the first held as an in-person event since 2020.
Here’s what Mary had to say about the conference.
Throughout the three-day conference, there were a variety of speakers covering different topics on key concerns and opportunities within the sector, with the theme of the conference this year being Farming a New Future.
It was particularly interesting and useful to hear directly from agricultural ministers on new policy announcements and how they see the future of food and agriculture. Hearing the outcomes of the OFC report by Lesley Mitchell, which highlighted the importance of supply chain synergies and fairness being a top priority for farmers to allow for a sustainable trading future to consider public policy, along with social and environmental impacts, was also really interesting.
Attending the debate on whether humans will be needed on farms within a generation was particularly insightful as I was able to see the differing opinions of how to remain at the forefront of the agricultural industry. Conversations like this complement what we learn at Harper Adams, whilst providing a wider context of learning; for example, the consideration of the disruption of global food supply chains due to political issues, with the need to enhance diversity and mental health support within the sector.
I was also part of the OFC Scholars Programme-specific sessions on leadership training by Saviour Associates and an industry mixer event with a range of companies including AHDB and Red Tractor.
These sessions allowed us to enhance our personal and professional development and put our goals into perspective, including how to achieve them in a realistic timeframe whilst learning key skills and effective attributes to supporting career advances. I found this to be vitally useful to me as a final year student.
On the final day of the conference, the scholars were split into groups and produced a ten-minute presentation on Farming a New Future. This gave me the opportunity to develop my transferable skills, such as increasing my confidence and teamworking, whilst getting the group to critically consider the industry’s future direction. The Oxford Farming Conference Scholar’s Programme provides a valuable opportunity for many younger people to attend the OFC who potentially would not have been able to, which is essential as we are the future of the agricultural industry.
Overall, I found attending the conference extremely rewarding, helping me to gain an insight into what the future of the agricultural industry may look like and ways in which I can change my actions going forward into my career.
I am extremely grateful to both Harper Adams University, and McDonald’s for funding my place to attend the OFC.
If you get the chance, I would highly recommend attending the OFC to anyone, as it provides an amazing opportunity to meet highly knowledgeable people from across the industry, as well as broaden your knowledge on innovative ideas which will support agricultural advancements.
Want to see more reflections on #OFC23? Read what students, staff and alumni had to say here.