Greater diversity and inclusion to be championed at OFC 2020 fringe event

The conversation about agriculture’s diversity is set to be thrown open at an Oxford Farming Conference fringe event next year, with the aim of attracting new entrants who don’t fit traditional industry stereotypes.

Improving diversity, solving cases of exclusion issues and combating polarisation in farming and rural life will be the focus of this new feature on the conference agenda for 2020, to be held on 7 January in Oxford.

The event seeks to spark a meaningful discussion about all forms of diversity in farming and the countryside, including ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

See also: Young agricultural engineer calls time on toxic gender stereotyping

“We will hear from people who have experienced exclusion by virtue of gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality, but also those who have come to feel excluded through the way the public discourse has changed,” says Lincolnshire farmer and chair of the Oxford Farming Conference, Matt Naylor.

“We’ll reflect on what drives experiences of inclusion and polarisation in the countryside and in farming, and – most importantly – what we might do about it.”

© Oli Hill/Proagrica

Agrespect co-founder Matt Naylor (right) with fellow member Ben Andrews at Brighton Pride 2019 © Oli Hill/Proagrica

Panellists will include north Wales farmer and Farmers Weekly columnist Will Evans and dairy vet Navaratnam Partheeban, who was the victim of racism last year after Farmers Weekly published his Talking Point column calling for the breakdown of ethnic barriers in agriculture.

The session will be chaired by the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s director Sue Pritchard and Matt Naylor, who is a co-founder of the Agrespect movement, which promotes LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusiveness in the farming industry. 

“A vibrant and successful rural economy will be a diverse and inclusive one,” says Ms Pritchard.

“It’s time for the whole sector to look at how farming and rural careers can become more inclusive, engage everyone in society, and attract new entrants who don’t necessarily fit the traditional rural stereotypes.”

People can register their attendance to this fringe event free of charge. It runs from 10.30am to 1pm at The South School on Oxford High Street on 7 January 2020, with lunch provided afterwards for a limited number of attendees.

As one of British agriculture’s biggest annual meeting of minds, the Oxford Farming Conference’s overarching theme for 2020 is “growing a healthy society”. Visit the OFC’s website for more information.