South of England Farming Conference
Bringing together landowners, agriculturalists and industry representatives from across the South East, the South of England Farming Conference is part of our charitable remit to fund and support agricultural education and countryside learning.
It’s a chance to find out more about some of the most pressing matters facing the industry today, listen to expert views and get involved in the discussion and put your questions to our experts.
‘Can We Really Save The Planet? (From a Farming Perspective)’
On the 1st November the South of England Agricultural Society hosted our 2023 Farming Conference ‘Can We Really Save The Planet? From a Farming Perspective)’.
Led by BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith, this year’s event took a new approach – an interview with two exceptional guests rather than presentations – delving deeply into whether we can save the planet (from a farming perspective) or if it’s too late. The traditional close to the conference remained, offering time for audience questions, input and debate.
Talking about this year’s subject, Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield Scholar sponsored by the Society, and chair of the conference organising committee, said: “I don’t think anyone can argue that climate change isn’t making its consequences felt across the farming sector. From changing weather patterns to increasing society demands to farm more sustainably, the impact is palpable.”
“Agriculture is firmly in the sights of many as the cause of many of the problems we face when it comes to climate change and environmental loss, and to be fair, to a large extent, they’re right. We’re now reaping the impacts of decades of government policies incentivising production at the expense of the environment. However, it is often said that whilst the industry is a major contributor to climate destruction, it potentially provides many of the answers too. That by changing farming practices, and doing things differently, we can save the planet and feed an ever-demanding population to boot.”
“But is that true, or is it too late? Everyone is talking about carbon zero, but is it achievable? We talk about biodiversity loss, but isn’t the damage done irreversible now? Can we shed our reliance on artificial fertilisers when we have an obligation to provide affordable food to a growing population?”
“The Society firmly believes the future is bright, but we also need to be realistic, which is why this conference and debate, at this time, is so important.”
Guest speakers were Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of independent charity the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission (FFCC), and Phil Jarvis, Chair of Albanwise Farming and Environment.
About our Speakers
Charlotte Smith (Chair) - Presenter of BBC Radio 4's Farming Today
Charlotte Smith is one of two main presenters of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today. She grew up in Quorn, Leicestershire, where she volunteered on BBC Radio Leicester. Charlotte was then put on the BBC’s Local Radio Reporters Scheme before touring the local radio stations of Sussex, Cumbria and Devon. She then returned to Radio Leicester as a news reporter working alongside Julian Worricker.
She also worked on BBC national radio, The World Tonight. More locally to Leicestershire, she became a reporter and sports presenter on East Midlands Today. Returning to national radio on BBC 5 Live, she was a producer, reporter and presenter. Prior to Farming Today Charlotte worked as a reporter for You and Yours, the lunch-time consumer programme on Radio 4. She has also since been a television reporter on BBC1’s Countryfile, until 2009, and returned as an occasional relief reporter from 2014. Charlotte is also a mother of two children.
Sue Pritchard - CEO of Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
Sue Pritchard is Chief Executive of the independent charity, the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission (FFCC). Before FFCC, Sue worked in leadership, strategy, culture, and change, with a portfolio career as a consultant and coach, a researcher, and writer, and non-executive, including non-executive director and then chair of a Local Health Board in Wales.
Sue has held Visiting and Honorary Fellowships at Salford University, Leeds University, Ashridge Business School, and University College, London, typically working with consortia of public and private sector organisations on large scale systems change, and leading and delivering major and complex projects. Sue is an Independent Governor at the Royal Agricultural University, a Trustee of CoFarm Foundation and sits on several academic advisory boards. She farms a Soil Association accredited organic livestock farm in Monmouthshire, with a focus on farming for conservation.
Phil Jarvis - Chair of Albanwise Farming and Environment
Phil Jarvis is Chair of Albanwise Farming and Environment. Albanwise Farming manages land and estates in Norfolk and Yorkshire. Sugar beet, cereals and oil seed rape, maize and potatoes form a major part of the arable rotation. Albanwise Environment manages wetland, woodland, hedgerows, peatland and agri-environment habitats. Phil also Chairs the Voluntary Initiative championing best plant protection product use delivered through Integrated Pest Management. Phil previously worked at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project, in Leicestershire.
Phil started as the farm manager and progressed to Head of Farming, Training and Partnerships. Phil is member and former Chair of the National Farmers Union, Environmental Forum and Vice-Chair of the NFU National Combinable Crops Board. Phil completed a MSc in Sustainable Agricultural Management at Harper Adams University in 2011 and between 2016 -2019 was a member of the BBSRC Agriculture and Food Security, Strategy Advisory Panel. Phil is a Professional Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management.