South of England Farming Conference 2021

The Role of Agriculture in Healing Society

The South of England Agricultural Society is delighted to announce the return of its annual Farming Conference which will take place from 6pm to 10pm on Wednesday 17th November 2021, at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex and will, for the first time, be available as a live stream for those who cannot physically make it (7-9pm).

The free event will embrace a topic very much related to the times we are all living in.

“For those of a certain age, the world sometimes seems unrecognisable,” says Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield scholar sponsored by the Society and organiser of the Farming Conference.  “The so-called carefree days of our childhoods have been replaced with lockdowns, loss of freedoms, polarisation of debate, contradictions such as the rise of both obesity and poverty, declining mental wellbeing and climate change.”

“For many the pandemic has given cause to take stock and ask questions about the lives we lead.  It is no surprise that more people over recent months have turned to the countryside for solace. Faced with more time at home, many started to cook from scratch. Whether these trends continue as we (hopefully) head back to ‘normality’ is a moot point, but it does raise the question: what is the role of agriculture in healing society?”

“Agriculture and those who work in this sector are in a unique position – not only do farmers and growers provide the food essential for our survival, they are also custodians of the natural environment that surrounds us. And this is an environment that is crucial in terms of mitigating climate change, feeding an ever more demanding population and in more general terms, improving our overall mental and physical wellbeing.”

Conference Timetable:

6-7pm Complimentary refreshments, bar open

7.00pm Welcome by Society Chairman, Charlie Burgoyne

7.05pm Chair opens the conference & live stream begins

8.30pm Bar re-opens

9.00pm Presentation, discussion & live stream ends

10.00pm Finish

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Chair & Guest Panellists

Anna Hill, of BBC Radio 4 Farming Today, will be chairing the 2021 Farming Conference.  Anna started her broadcasting career at BBC Radio Sussex, later moving to Radio 4 and has covered stories from across the UK and around the world.

We have a diverse set of speakers to help navigate through this challenging and complex subject. All speakers will deliver a short presentation setting out their thoughts, then audience members can pose questions in person or online through an interactive messaging panel.

The guest panellists are:

Barbara Bray MBE FIFST MSC, Director of Alo Solutions Ltd

Barbara is a TEDx speaker and director of her own consultancy business Alo Solutions Ltd which drives and delivers food safety in food supply chains and develops sustainable nutrition strategies for food businesses. She will present her thoughts on the nutritional challenges facing society and the role that agriculture has to play.

Sir Charles Ray Burrell, Owner of Knepp Estate

Sir Charles Raymond Burrell inherited Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex from his grandparents in 1983. After running the Estate’s arable and dairy business for 17 years, Charles now devotes all 3,200 acres of the Knepp Estate to a process-led rewilding project.  Charles will talk about how rewilding has the power to create a more sustainable agriculture and the broader role it has in engaging society with the countryside.

Dan Burdett, manager of two organic dairy farms 

Dan runs two organic dairy farms both of which are autumn calving, with the milk being sold through the cooperative Arla.  He is passionate about improving the health and diversity of farms and will discuss how regenerative farming practices can create greater resilience in our food supply chains.

Robin Hobson, Chairman of Laurence Gould Partnership 

Robin is the Chairman of Laurence Gould Partnership, the national firm of agricultural consultants. He has been providing farm management and advisory services throughout the South East of England since 1977. He will share his experience of working with young, disadvantaged people at Care Farm in West Sussex, and how the farm helps build confidence and self-esteem, and encourages teamwork and independence.


The Farming Conference is a FREE to attend event but all attendees, both online and in-person, must register.

Register Now


The Farming Conference is held by the South of England Agricultural Society as part of its charitable remit to fund and support agricultural education and countryside learning.

With thanks to our generous sponsors: