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    Oxford Farming Conference 24 - The Power of Diversity: the student perspective

    16 January 2024

    This year’s Oxford Farming Conference focussed on The Power of Diversity.

    In this guest blog, final year BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management student Lucy Fowler reflects on the conference, the lessons she learnt – and how she hopes to apply them in her career.


    The Oxford Farming Conference 2024 brought together a range of delegates from the agricultural industry - government officials, agri-food managers, supply chain professionals, agronomists and farmers alike - to discuss 'The Power of Diversity.'

    This couldn’t be a more apt title for Harper Adams, who are taking great steps in encouraging students from a wide range of backgrounds, whether they have agricultural experience or not, into the University.

    We are an industry facing great changes, and a more diverse approach to farm businesses and agricultural practises, managing consumer demands and diversity within the people we employ, couldn’t be more important. 

    The opportunity to attend the conference was a great privilege and highlights the opportunities the University is able to offer its students. 

    It was particularly interesting to hear Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, discuss the planned changes to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) and how we can combine application of these with Countryside Stewardship. It was also great to hear the announcement of a 10 per cent increase in SFI payments to support farmers, and how grants will be made more accessible particularly to tenant farmers.

    This was particularly useful for me, as I head into a career in agronomy, and gives me the knowledge to discuss some of these options with future clients.

    The second day of the conference offered an opportunity to enter the Oxford University debating chamber, listening to attendees discussing the motion ‘This house believes that farming for food is holding back nature recovery in our natural landscapes.’

    The debate raised a lot of very interesting points about the sustainability of current farming practises, something that through my studies I feel well informed about. The diversity of people within the room, including a range of younger people supported by the Scholarship, Breaking Barriers and Inspire programmes led to some very interesting arguments.

    While farmers encourage diversity within plant communities, through rotations and environmental schemes, the conference also highlighted the importance of diversity within our workforce and enterprises.

    The final day included a panel session with Vice-Chancellor Ken Sloan. Not only was it great to see Harper Adams involved in the conference, it also very encouraging to hear how we can support young people into a career in agriculture, and the steps the University is taking to drive this.


    One of the most important messages I took from attending the conference was the pressure that farmers are facing to produce enough food, and food that is nutritious as well as sustainable for our environment. 

    This requires knowledge of soil, water, cropping, biodiversity and so much more providing scope for a multitude of careers within the sector, and so much opportunity for young people.

    I am very grateful to Harper Adams for providing us with this opportunity, and I would highly recommend any future student to attend the OFC with the University or their future employers and make the most of the chance to network with likeminded and knowledgeable individuals from across the sector. 

    The packed programme of sessions highlighted some key considerations for us as graduates heading into the industry and has provided some great knowledge to take into the rest of my final year.

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