Organisers of the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) have cancelled the annual event this winter – and replaced it with a one-day digital conference.
It means the 75th running of the annual farming conference – seen as the curtain raiser to the farming year – will be an online conference that will take place on Thursday 7 January 2021.
Since the conference first started in 1936, other than the war years, it has not missed a single year.
Sally Williams, OFC chairman, said the decision to cancel the physical conference more than six months out was disappointing.
But the OFC council felt it could not run the risk of a costly postponement or cancellation due to the coronavirus nearer the time.
She explained: “We run the event at break-even or a slight loss, so the uncertainty of booking the Oxford University only for us to have to cancel due to the pandemic is something we felt we could not support.
“Therefore, the council have made the difficult decision to cancel OFC 2021 and replace it with a one-day digital OFC.”
Over the years, the Oxford conference has been a place for the industry to come together, discuss the biggest issues facing agriculture and prepare for the future.
In recent years, debate has been dominated by issues such as Brexit, with key industry leaders using it as a platform to deliver significant announcements that affect farming businesses.
Next year’s event – although online only – will be no different, said Ms Williams. “The 2021 OFC online conference will include the politics, inspiring farmers, the Frank Parkinson lecture, and the OFC debate, providing a provocative virtual experience with the opportunity for you to engage through online networking and Q&As,” she added.
“While disappointed at not being able to hold a physical conference and welcome you to Oxford, we are very excited at the possibilities afforded to us by taking the conference fully virtual.”
The organisers will use digital tools to bring together international speakers who they may otherwise not have not been able to include in the line-up.
To commemorate the influence of the event and the speakers it has attracted over the past nine decades, the organisers have launched OFC Bitesize – a webinar series that will pick a theme from a past conference and debate its sentiments.
Hosted on the first Thursday of every month from June to December 2020, the webinars will take place for one hour from 12pm, drawing opinion from a host of different businesses and geographies. Each one will be chaired by a fellow OFC director and range from presentations to debates and panels.
For more information, visit the OFC website.