South of England Farming Conference 2016

The 2016 Farming Conference takes place at the South of England Showground. Register online today to secure your free place.


Our thanks to this year’s South of England Farming Conference sponsors
south east farmerse business systemslloyds bankMayo Wynne Baxterclmrichard place dobson llp

Sustainability – what does it mean?

‘Sustainability’, ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘sustainable intensification’ are all phrases we hear on a regular basis but what does it actually mean and crucially what does it mean for modern farming businesses?

Farmers are being challenged to produce more food for a growing population but at the same time go further in protecting the environment. Organic farming is a very emotive subject within the industry – what role does it have to play in sustainable agriculture?

Food businesses and retailers have to consider their environmental and social footprint along the entire supply chain – what does sustainability look like for food businesses that buy agricultural commodities?

What role will technology play in delivering sustainably produced food and is this affordable for agricultural businesses?

Can farmers deliver environmental and social sustainability whilst maintaining a sustainable business themselves?

This year’s conference tackles these issues head on with a great panel of speakers who will debate the issues. Speakers include: Helen Browning OBE, chief executive of the Soil Association and organic farmer in Wiltshire; Robin Sundaram, head of responsible sourcing for Nestlé UK and Jake Freestone a Nuffield Scholar and farm manager at Overbury Farms in Gloucestershire.

This year we are also doing something different and holding a Technical Forum prior to the conference aimed at active farmers and students who are interested in extending their understanding of soils and farming systems to better improve soil conditions. This will be an interactive session involving a fabulous line-up of presenters including Ron Stobart, head of farming system research and NIAB TAG; David Jones from the Natural History Museum – an expert on worms; and Tom Sewel, Nuffield Scholar and farmer who has embraced a no-till system on his farm in Kent.

Conference overview

4 – 6pm Technical Forum

6 – 7pm Sponsors’ Reception

6 – 7pm Tea/coffee & complimentary refreshments; bar open

7pm Welcome by Charles Burgoyne – SEAS Chairman

7.05pm Chairman’s introduction by Charlotte Smith

7.10pm Helen Browning OBE 

7.30pm Robin Sundaram

7.50pm Jake Freestone

8.10pm Q&A

8.40pm Tea/coffee; bar re-opens

Chair – Charlotte Smith

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Charlotte is a radio and TV presenter, working on BBC Radio 4’s “Farming Today” and BBC 1’s “Countryfile”. She grew up in rural Leicestershire and worked in local radio, as a sports presenter before moving into rural programmes. Charlotte is a voluntary Director of the Oxford Farming Conference.

Helen Browning

Helen Browning runs a tenanted 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire, which supplies branded pork products to multiple retailers, independent outlets and export, and runs the village pub too! Helen became Chief Executive of the Soil Association in March 2011, having been its Chair in the late 90s, and prior to that was Director of External Affairs at the National Trust. Helen is also Chair of the Food Ethics Council and has been a member of several influential commissions around agriculture and food, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food; the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission; the Meat and Livestock Commission, and was Chair of the England Implementation Group for the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. She was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.

Robin Sundaram

Robin is Milk Buyer & Sustainable Sourcing Manager, Nestlé UK & Ireland. Having graduated from the University of Leicester with a BSc in Economics, he spent his early career working with retailers like M&S and Safeway, overseeing programmes like Safeway’s supplier development programme. He joined Nestlé UK in 1995 to lead the Customer Service Development team,  helping set up and drive Nestlé UK’s supply chain collaboration programme with several key retailers. Since then he has fulfilled a number of commercial and supply chain roles within the organisation.

Robin moved to the Nestlé UK & Ireland Procurement team in 2011 where he leads the market-level implementation of Nestlé’s global commitment to engage all suppliers in its Responsible Sourcing Guidelines and approach. Through his role, he has helped develop a full sustainability strategy for Nestlé UK & Ireland’s milk sourcing, aimed at helping dairy farmers reduce their environmental impact and increase the quality and volume of milk supply. He also works across the business to support others in implementing sustainable sourcing of coffee, palm oil, sugar, cocoa and other key commodities procured by the business. He has also established an internal training programme, Farm to Fork, which helps employees add value and drive sustainable sourcing through their own roles.

During his time as Sustainable Sourcing Manager, Nestlé UK & Ireland have won or been shortlisted for several prestigious industry awards for Responsible Sourcing.

Jake Freestone

Jake was born in Zambia; he and his family subsequently moved back to Bristol and Jake completed a BSc (Honours) Degree at Seale-Hayne Agricultural College in 1995 before working as an Assistant Farm Manager for the Duke of Buccleuch at BQ Farms on the Boughton Estate in Northamptonshire.

Between 1999 and 2003 Jake worked for Velcourt as a Farm Manager, in Kent, Gloucestershire and Lincolnshire before moving to Overbury Farms in 2003. Farm enterprises managed included; dairy, sheep, arable, potatoes and sugar beet.

Jake currently manages the in-hand farming operations for Penelope Bossom trading as Overbury Farms on the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border. The farm totals 1560ha and comprises of arable crops, land let for vegetable production (potatoes, peas and salad onions) and permanent grassland. The grass carries a flock of 1000 ewes. The farm hosts a very diverse Higher Level Stewardship scheme, started in January 2011.

Overbury farms joined LEAF in 2003. Jake has been a keen supporter of Open Farm Sunday since the first event in 2006. In July 2007 the farm was awarded the LEAF Marque for lamb and the farm regularly carries out the LEAF Audit. The farm regularly hosts open days throughout the year and is twinned with Wychall Primary School in Birmingham (hosting 3 visits per year with the same group of children).

In October 2012 Jake was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, to study the possibilities of growing 20T/ha of wheat in the next 20 years. Post Nuffield Jake has presented his findings to the Nuffield Conference and the Institute of Agricultural Managers and their annual conference in November 2014 and also that month was awarded the Farm Business – Food and Farming ‘Progressive Farmer on the Year’. In 2015 Jake was Runner up in the Farmers Guardian Arable Innovator of the Year Competition.

Currently Jake is a steering group member on the Molson Coors Growers Group.

Technical Forum

Who is it for?

The Technical Forum is aimed at active farmers and students who are interested in extending their understanding of soils and farming systems to better improve soil conditions.

This will be an interactive session involving a fabulous line-up of presenters including:

Tom Sewell

Tom Sewell farms approximately 1,000 acres near Maidstone, Kent in partnership with his wife Sarah and parents Jem and Anna.

Tom returned to the family farm in 1998 following time at Harper Adams Agricultural College and working for farmer and contractor Harry Wilson in Shropshire and Lancashire. In 2013 Tom was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, and subsequently travelled the world studying no-till cropping systems, and returned home to start implementing his findings!

Tom has been married to Sarah for 15 years and has four children. Aside from farming, he enjoys spending time with his family & is also on the leadership team of The Vine, Maidstone – a large and diverse church. Tom is a parent governor at the local village school and a director of Weald Granary.

Ron Stobart

Ron Stobart is Head of Farming Systems Research for NIAB TAG.  He joined Morley Research Centre as an Agronomist in 2000 and then worked for TAG as an Agronomist and Research Project Manager in both the East Anglia and Cotswold offices.  Ron has a degree in Applied Biology from Liverpool and a Masters Degree in Crop Production from Essex.  He has previously worked in the Ag-chem industry, the commercial seed trade and in the development of speciality and industrial oilseed crops.  Research interests are ostensibly in the area of farming systems, rotations and soil management; Ron manages the NIAB TAG farming systems research portfolio and has presented on farming systems research both nationally and internationally.

David Jones

Dr David Jones is Research Biologist and a member of the Soil Biodiversity Research Group at the Natural History Museum. His research interests include the ecology of earthworms in agricultural and semi-natural systems in the UK. David designed the Field Guide to the Common Species of British Earthworms used in the OPAL National Soil and Earthworm Survey.