Farmer and former rugby international Simon Best is guest speaker at the conference


The 2022 Oxford agriculture conference, Routes to Resilience, will be co-chaired by Barbara Bray MBE and Sarah Mukherjee MBE and will take place from January 5-7, 2022.

Following an announcement on Wednesday, December 22, the conference will be fully online only.

Like many other organizations, OFC is monitoring announcements and developments in the UK and overseas on the Omicron variant.

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Simon Best. Image: Oxford Agriculture Conference

The safety of delegates has always been the primary concern and with the wave of concerns nationally and internationally, combined with the lack of regulatory clarity likely in the coming weeks, the decision to go online was inevitable.

Digital attendees will have access to all sessions, broadcast live, that would have been given in Oxford, including Politics, Trade, Science Lectures, Inspirational Farmers, Debates, Henry Dimbleby and Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Sessions will be recorded and full on-demand access will be provided, as well as access to the OFC app where delegates can ask questions of speakers, participate in surveys and network online.

Simon Best, a fourth generation farmer at Acton House Farm in Northern Ireland, will speak on Thursday 6 January.

Acton House Farm has evolved over the years into a predominantly arable unit, growing grains, rapeseed and beans, the majority of which are sold within a five mile radius of the farm.

For the past 15 years, the focus has been on environmental sustainability, with the farm gaining LEAF accreditation, participating in environmental stewardship programs, and branching out into composting to improve soils.

It is also one of seven farms in Northern Ireland participating in the ARC Zero project, which aims to set a verifiable benchmark for farm-wide carbon emissions.

This year, Simon won the Farmers Weekly Farmer Farmer of the Year award, a title not normally associated with Northern Ireland.

The judges were impressed that Simon had succeeded in establishing an ecologically sustainable growing business on a scale never seen in Northern Ireland.

Before returning to the farm, Simon started his career in professional rugby, where he represented Ireland 23 times, playing two World Cups before retiring from injury in 2007.

There have been many lessons in professional sport that Simon has applied to running the farm business and he will share his thoughts on this applied learning at OFC, as well as his own journey of succession on the family farm.

Co-Chairs Barbara Bray and Sarah Mukherjee commented: “Like many other organizations, we have been following announcements and developments in the UK and overseas on the Omicron variant.

“The safety of delegates has always been our main concern.

“While we are confident that the measures we had in place to protect delegates were sound, the wave of concern at the national and international levels, combined with the lack of clarity on the likely regulations in the coming weeks, made this inevitable decision.

“OFC is in good financial health, but we have to face the fact that this decision will create a very big deficit for us, as a small charity that dates back to the 1930s.

“However, the decision is the right one to make.”

Tickets for the online event are heavily subsidized at just £ 45 + VAT and can be purchased at https://www.ofc.org.uk/booking

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