Editor’s view: FW and OFC aims: Debate, challenge, entertain

What is the point of a conference? I asked myself this question as I travelled home from Oxford last week.

As most of you know, the ancient city is home to two farming events that battle to start the farming year with a bang – the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and the Oxford Real Farming Conference.

Gloomsters would have it that such events are merely a place for pompous windbags to go and talk past each other while the jobs pile up at home. 

See also: Editor’s view: Could 2023 be year that farmer anger erupts?

About the author

Andrew Meredith
Farmers Weekly editor
Andrew has been Farmers Weekly editor since January 2021 after doing stints on the business and arable desks. Before joining the team, he worked on his family’s upland beef and sheep farm in mid Wales and studied agriculture at Aberystwyth University. In his free time he can normally be found continuing his research into which shop sells London’s finest Scotch egg.
Read more articles by Andrew Meredith

These sort of characters may not be entirely absent from such events, but I firmly reject the idea that they define them – and I state even more firmly that I would not put anyone I met there in that category.

A conference should be a place where ideas are tested and debated, the status quo challenged and, above all, folk are entertained – there is no point taking a precious day or two off if you’re not going to have fun.

These events are not going to change the world, but they might be the places where you learn how the world is changing and can start to take steps to modify your business accordingly.

And if that is the basis on which they should be judged, then I would say both events passed with flying colours, with particular congratulations to outgoing OFC chairwoman Emily Norton and incoming 2023 chairman Will Evans, of this parish.

New-look news section for FW

Debate, challenge, entertain. What events strive to do in person, we try to achieve in print, online and in our podcast. And just as events need to continually adapt to serve agriculture, so does Farmers Weekly.

That’s why you’ll be seeing a few changes to your magazine from this week as we pack more into an enlarged News section, so you’ll have all of the latest stories, analysis and views in one bumper package. 

We’ll be shifting livestock market analysis from Taking Stock into a new-look markets section within News.

It will also feature the latest updates on moves in the price of other commodities, such as grain, which were previously in Business.

The fortunes of livestock and arable don’t happen in isolation, so it makes sense to have one place where we focus on what the biggest market movers have been in the past seven days, and bring you expert views on what’s going to happen next.

It’s also time to bid a fond farewell to Farmlife. We’ll be retaining the best bits of it in a dedicated community section within News, such as the young farmer columnists and picture competitions.

We will continue to celebrate the best of what the rural community is doing by featuring more of your pictures, championing the rural way of life and the charity fundraising so many of you are involved with.

Even as robots continue to creep their way into agriculture, it is happy, skilled people who are at the heart of every successful business.

Bolstering the strength of our rural communities is as vital to retaining people in agriculture as rewarding them adequately in financial terms.

So it was pleasing to see at the traditional OFC evening debate the crowd was comprehensively on the side of the team that opposed the motion: “This House believes that humans will not be needed on farms in a generation”.

Who knows what we’ll be debating a few decades from now, but I’m certain it will be more than the latest updates for the ShepherdBot 6000.

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