Food for thought at Farming Conference

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The South of England Farming Conference at the South of England Showground in Ardingly always leaves its audience with food for thought and some tough questions will once again be on the agenda at this year’s event on Tuesday 12 November.

The message that resonated from last year’s conference to the 250 farmers, landowners and agriculturalists who attended was that some very hard decisions would have to be taken in the future to keep Britain and its farmers competitive with the rest of the world.  This year’s renowned panel of speakers will be exploring this message even further, debating the question of ‘Who can afford food produced in Britain?’

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President, Peter Kendall who farms in Eyeworth, East Bedfordshire, in partnership with his brother, will be leading the panel of speakers.  Crucial issues including sustainability, energy and climate realism, subsidies and world competition will be discussed; and with the demand on food supply increasing year on year whilst land area decreases, the question of whether UK residents will ever be able to afford the food produced in this country will be looked at from every angle.

Peter Kendall sits on a range of bodies in the UK and Europe, but at the top of his list of priorities is ensuring that the central role of commercial agriculture and horticulture in tackling the dual challenges of food security and climate change – and the pressing need for the sustainable intensification of agriculture – is recognised by those in power in the UK and Europe. And not only recognised, but reflected in the political agenda across the board.

Working on the principle that governments take notice of industries that enjoy wide public support, communicating why farming matters to that wider audience has also been a key feature of Peter’s work as NFU President and the Society is delighted that he will be joining the panel to bring his expertise to this year’s audience.

Local South Downs National Park farmer and writer for several farming and national titles, Stephen Carr will also be sitting on the expert panel of speakers.  Known for his outspoken views on farming and it’s future in the UK, Stephen will no doubt bring a very realistic approach to the debate with many years of experience of sheep, cattle and grain farming as well as organic production which part of his farm is now converted to.

Nick Hempleman will also speak on behalf of the smaller business that has made good as a champion of local produce. He runs The Sussex Produce Company, an award-winning food shop in Steyning.

He spent five years working at the Head office of The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest farming landowner and supermarket, before opening his own business in 2007. In the last six years he has won the title of Sussex Food Shop of the Year twice, been a finalist on a further three occasions, been a finalist in Greengrocer of the Year 2013 and most recently in October, was named as one of the best independent food shops in the country by The Observer in their annual 2013 Food Awards.

Said Matthew Berryman, Conference Organiser, “People return to this event year on year as they know they can expect to hear from some of the most interesting speakers in the industry.  It offers the perfect opportunity for the farming community to come together under one roof and discuss some of the key issues that they are having to face both now and in the future.”

BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Food Programme’ presenter, Sheila Dillon is well known for tackling some of the toughest issues in the food and farming industry and the South of England Agricultural Society is delighted that she has agreed to act as Chair at this year’s Farming Conference. In 2008 Sheila was awarded an honorary doctorate by City University for her work, which includes the citation “has changed the way in which we think about food”.

A food journalist for almost three decades, some of Sheila’s most notable work includes the breaking scandal of BSE, the rise of GM goods, the growth of the organic movement from muck and magic to multi-million pound business, the birth of the World Trade Organisation and irradiation at a time when those subjects were not even a gleam in a newshound´s eye.

“We are very excited that Sheila is joining the us to Chair the panel of speakers this year. Her tradition of pushing the boundaries has not diminished over the 20 years of working on ‘The Food Programme’ and remains evident in more recent programmes on the chocolate industry, fishing practices and food prices.  She has also won many awards for her work including the Glaxo Science Prize, Caroline Walker award and several Glenfiddich Awards, most recently for her documentary on the history of the American meat industry,” said Matthew Berryman.

The Farming Conference is sponsored this year by Mayo Wynne Baxter, Complete Land Management (CLM), Chavereys, Dowsett Mayhew, R and B Construction Southern Ltd and South East Farmer.

The event is free and includes refreshments, however it is essential to register your place.  To book or for more information visit or call Wiz Crockford on 01444 892700.

Farming Conference, Tuesday 12 November 2013, 6pm

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