BBC Countryfile Presenter to Chair Farming Conference

Charlotte SmithCharlotte Smith, presenter on BBC1’s ‘Countryfile’ and Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’, will chair the debate at the South of England Agricultural Society’s Farming Conference to be held on 12th November at the Showground in Ardingly.

The mother of two from Leicestershire, who is also voluntary Director of the Oxford Farming Conference, steps into the shoes of Sheila Dillon, from BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Food Programme’ who had hoped to chair the conference for the second time this year, but will be working abroad at the time.

“We are delighted that Charlotte can bring her extensive farming knowledge and experience chairing panels to help farmers in the South East tackle one of the most important global issues facing society, how to feed nine billion people and to debate the question: does the UK farmer have the capability to rise to this challenge,” said Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield Scholar sponsored by the Society and this year’s Conference Organiser.

“This year’s conference will open up a hugely topical debate. The arguments are well rehearsed; population growth, the rise of the middle class and ever increasing demands on a declining resource base will create pressures on the global economy like we have not experienced before.

“But for agriculture, whilst the challenges facing us are immense, we sit on the precipice of a new era; an era when the farmer who is prepared to embrace change and do things differently can look forward to a bright future.”

The conference will ask if this farmer could be a UK farmer? Can UK farmers compete on a global basis or will they be left behind by those farmers around the world with greater entrepreneurial flair? Three eminent speakers will lead the debate.

Kick starting the discussion will be economist, Government academic adviser and university lecturer Séan Rickard who is well known for his forthright views on food and agricultural policy. Bringing a robust scientific view to the debate will be second speaker, Alistair Leake, director of policy & public affairs for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. Last to step up and arguing why UK farming is first class, is hugely respected public speaker and manager of Kingston Hill Farm Ltd, David Christensen.

Sitting in the middle of 150 acres, the South of England Showground is the ideal venue to host the Farming Conference, sponsored by South East Farmer, Mayo Wynne Baxter, Complete Land Management (CLM) and Chavereys.

The event is free for people with an interest in agriculture and related industries and includes refreshments, however it is essential to register your place. To book or for more information visit or email
Farming Conference, Wednesday 12 November 2014, 6pm
South of England Centre, Ardingly, West Sussex, RH17 6TL (Near Haywards Heath. Junction 10 off M23)

Notes to editors – speakers details:

Séan Rickard
With over 30 years experience as an international public speaker, Séan Rickard will be first to speak at the conference. He was chief economist at the NFU for many years where he was responsible for the Annual Review of Agriculture conducted with the government and until 2012 he was a government academic adviser on food and agricultural policy and took a leading role in protecting the interest of UK farmers in Europe.
Hugely respected and well known for engaging an audience, Séan has very forthright views on food and farming, including climate change on food production, the importance of science and technology and the shortcomings of current policy.

Dr Alistair Leake
Second speaker at the conference is director of policy & public affairs for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Dr Alistair Leake. He leads the Allerton Project, a commercial farm in Leicestershire, showcasing how intensive farming can be undertaken alongside ground breaking environmental practice.
Alistair was a member of the Government’s Independent Scientific Advisory Committee for Pesticides (ACP) for seven years, latterly as deputy chairman; was on the BBC’s Rural Affairs Advisory Committee; and has been chairman of the UK Soil Management Initiative (SMI) and a director of The Arable Group.
He is a compelling speaker and has written many papers on Sustainable Agriculture, including co-authoring the European Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture’s (EISA) EU Farming Standards and is guaranteed to bring a robust scientific view to the debate.

David Christensen
David Christensen is a hugely respected public speaker and manages Kingston Hill Farm Ltd, a family owned farming company operating dairy and beef farming enterprises in the Thames Valley, farming 1300 acres of rented land on which 600 cows are milked and up to a further 800 cattle are reared.
David is a former chairman of the Maize Growers Association, has been a director of the Orion Farming Group (a farm input buying group), was a farmer director of Milk Link and now sits on the Board of Representatives for Arla. He sat on the Farming Regulation Task Force Implementation Group and the steering group for the Prince’s Rural Action Programme for Dairy Farming.
David is also a trustee of the Oxfordshire Agricultural Society Trust, a charity that gives financial assistance for training and development to young people living in Oxfordshire and engaged in the agricultural sector.

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