From the the 3rd to 5th January I attended the Oxford Farming Conference following SBAS kindly awarding me one of their YFC scholarships at the SFYFC AGM in November 2023.
Day 1 round-up
Panellist Hannah Darby, an arable farmer from Huntingdon, discussed the benefits of using companion cropping and winter cover crops to help reduce soil temperature and water evaporation in hot summers, and to increase water uptake and prevent surface run off in the winter months. Both of these options can be taken up by farmers as part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI).
Mike Green from BASF talked about Project Fortress, which is trialling solutions for dealing with extreme weather, soil health and profitability. Herbal leys grazed by sheep in areas of the farm that have been notoriously difficult due to soil type, have been extremely effective in increasing soil health while still offering some output in the form of grazing. Herbal Leys can be incorporated into the rotation as part of SFI, so can be funded while being a useful solution to increasing soil health.
Martin Andersson, a mixed farmer from Sweden, also talked about the importance of knowing your soil and employing efficient technology such as GIS. By undertaking the right soil and nutrient analysis, yields have been increased and inputs reduced by effective application of nutrients. Again, soil testing and nutrient management can be funded by SFI.
Day two round-up
Regenerative agriculture hype or hope?
Leading innovators discussed their hopes for regenerative farming and the ways in which it can help deliver pest, nutrient and soil improvements. Dr Elizabeth Stockdale, head of farming systems at NIAB, talked of ways regenerative practices can be adapted for almost all farms to sustainably intensify.
Antony Yousefian, vice president of climate and circularity and partner of The First Thirty, gave insights on the potentially marketable health benefits of sustainably produced food which can often have much higher levels of nutrients as well as the environmental benefits that have the potential to be valuable in mitigating flooding.
OFC 2024 Report Launch “Is the UK food supply chain broken?”
Ged Futter, a food retail expert, presented a report stating that the practice of farmers subsidising consumers’ appetite for cheap food cannot continue. After years of crisis as a result of Brexit, the Ukrainian War, the Covid-19 pandemic and high levels of inflation, farming’s confidence is at an all-time low.
The report was discussed by several influential panellists, including Tom Bradshaw, NFU vice president. He stressed that consumers must understand the value of sustainably produced food and that it must be clarified who is liable to pay for this sustainability – the government or the consumer.
Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Steve Barclay, summarised the Conservative manifesto for agriculture. Most notably, he announced additional Sustainable Farming Incentive Options for 2024, to add to those that have been available in 2023.
In addition, recognising that the existing payment rates did not incentivise the scheme, payment rates have been increased by an average of 10%. From this summer, it will be possible to apply for Countryside Stewardship and Sustainable Farming Incentive options in a single application, to allow farmers to have a flexible agreement which suits their individual farming business. The minister summarised the manifesto as more money, more choice and more trust.
Politics Discussion Session
The politics session featured interesting insights from Caroline Van Der Plas, party leader of the Farmer Citizen Movement (Netherlands), Stuart Roberts, food and farming advisor to the Liberal Democrats and Steve Reed, OBE, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mr Reed outlined Labour’s proposed new deal for farmers which featured low priced, sustainable energy to be made available to farmers, an increase in British food for schools and hospitals, higher food exports to neighbouring countries and an increase in flood protection for farms.
Address by The Princess Royal, Princess Anne
The Princess Royal summarised the challenges faced by farmers over the long history of the conference and the industry’s ability to adapt to events such as conflict and poor weather. She emphasised that farming is a family enterprise that has a deep understanding of long-term value.
The Agricultural Transition and Environmental Land Management (ELM) and Latest State of Play from DEFRA
Jonathan Baker, DEFRA deputy director, updated delegates on the SFI offering which will be open for applications in summer, 2024. To incentivise the scheme, payment rates were being increased by an average of 10%, which will automatically apply to those with live 2023 agreements as well as those who apply in 2024.
Jim Egan, of Frontier, summarised the SFI options, including the importance of selecting options to benefit the farm rather than just those with the highest payment rates. Also, the importance of record and evidence keeping and ensuring that all scheme benefits, including its flexibility, are seen by farmers.
Day three round-up
Farming a Greener Future – The diverse role of livestock with AHDB
Professor John Gilliland, OBE, environment consultant to the AHDB, highlighted the success of pilot schemes on dairy farms in Northern Ireland where soil testing of all fields was conducted, alongside the mapping of all habitats, such as trees and hedges. The trial saw an 80% change in farmer behaviour, with trial farmers feeling that soil testing helped them to not only meet the requirements of their milk contracts, but also to become more efficient and profitable in applying nutrients. Similar options are available currently within the SFI in England.
Diversified Leadership – Could Farming Do Better?
Minette Batters, NFU president, reflected on her term leading the union and the importance of breaking barriers as a female leader. She closed her address by urging the government to recognise the importance of farmers and food production when compiling Environmental Land Management (ELM) strategies.
Professor David Hughes of Imperial College London, encouraged farmers to lead on issues relating to food production, employing regenerative techniques and sustainable farming, stating that early uptake will prevent a “Go Green or Go Broke” situation.
Getting People into Agriculture – Could Diversity Fix Farming?
Nick Evans, managing director of Oxbury Bank, spoke of the importance of encouraging new entrants into farming, especially those with an agricultural background that may not have a family farm. The Oxbury New Gen offers 100% funding and business and financial advice to new entrants.
I think that attending the conference was of great benefit to me, as someone in the early stages of her career. It was great to ‘have my finger on the pulse’, so to speak, regarding policy making.
My highlight was hearing from multiple speakers with a progressive mindset that were all hopeful for the future of farming. At present the agricultural industry is undergoing some of the biggest changes in policy and practice since the Second World War, but the conference summed up that, although the industry can be a scary place for farmers at the moment, with challenge comes opportunity.
I was also very privileged to attend the debate regarding the impact of livestock farming on nature recovery in protected landscapes, a hotly disputed topic with some insightful views from industry experts. This was followed by the dinner held at Christchurch College, which allowed me to network with fellow delegates.
Overall, the conference was an excellent opportunity and I cannot thank the society enough for their generosity in supporting YFC members attending this event. I would encourage any of my fellow members to apply in future years as it is truly a great opportunity and I feel very privileged to have been selected as a delegate in 2024.
By Kate Oakes
Oxford Farming Conference Report 2024
This year I was fortunate enough to gain a scholarship opportunity on behalf of Staffordshire YFC, funded by the Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society. The theme for the 2024 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) being ‘The Power Of Diversity’ emerged as a beacon of inclusivity, highlighting the transformative potential of diversity in agriculture. Held from January 3rd to January 5th, 2024, this annual gathering attracted a diverse array of participants from across the agricultural spectrum, celebrating the richness of perspectives, experiences, and expertise within the industry.
On the Wednesday afternoon I made the journey to Oxford ahead of the first session that evening and the welcome reception, held at the history museum, and what an experience this was. It allowed me the opportunity to chat to fellow delegates ahead of the conference officially opening the following morning. Kate and I were also able to sign up to attend extra sessions outside of the programme, this further extended the experience and knowledge we took from the event.
Thursday also consisted of a session on regenerative farming from NIAB, explaining how soil is the most undervalued asset in the world, with over 40% of soil degraded even though it is the second largest carbon store in the world. By increasing the organic matter content of soil by just 1%, it increases the carbon holding capacity y over 160,000 litres.
The secretary of state was also present for the politics session where he announced the new ELMS’s schemes, and how there will be a 10% payment increase going forward for landowners.
Following the theme of diversity, the talk on food innovation addressed the gap in ethnic markets such as halal, as Muslims spend 3 times as much as the average consumer on meat. As well as this, there was also an eye-opening talk by Sarah Dunning, the daughter of the family who started the Tebay Services business 50 years ago. One sentence resonated with me, ‘there is no such thing as luck, it is where preparation meets opportunity’, and this is something I will carry with me for a long time.
Thursday also bought Princess Anne to the conference, with her giving a fantastic summary of the afternoon before making the journey to the Oxford university Debate Chamber. This year’s topic was ‘This house believes that farming for food is holding back nature recovery in protected landscapes’ and whilst some responses were very entertaining, it sparked a great debate.
We then headed to Christ Church for the post-debate supper, and what an experience this was. The layout of the dinner was what could only be described as similar to the dining hall of Hogwarts.
Friday morning then consisted of an opening session ran by ADHB, where Professor Jude Capper was present, of whom I have been lucky enough to work with on placement last year as well as alongside my dissertation this year. The panel discussed how we can work to push the message that meat is part of the recommended diet, and how 49% of young girls are low in iron as a result of following a poor diet. Furthermore, they addressed the inevitable approach towards carbon auditing on farm, and how there is no ;one size fits all approach’, but we must start to work towards this issue as an industry.
We then had the closing sessions on diversified leadership by Minette batters, and a panel session including Polly Davies, who spoke about the need to get new entrants into agriculture from diverse backgrounds.
The day was then drawn to a close with the final session from Mike Duxbury, the blind farmer, who was absolutely incredible and left the audience very emotional.
The 2024 Oxford Farming Conference celebrated the power of diversity as a driving force for positive change in agriculture. By embracing diversity in all its forms and harnessing the collective wisdom and creativity of diverse voices, the conference underscored the potential to build a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable food system for future generations.
I feel very privileged to have been part of this year’s conference, especially representing my home county young farmers. I would encourage anyone with a passion for the future of the industry to apply for the scholarship opportunity for next year and can assure you that you will not regret it. I extend my thanks once again to the Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society for making this possible. By Meg Beswick
On Thursday 11th January – 23 teams competed in the County Quiz, testing grey matter with questions from Quiz Master – Dave Hem!
With only 2 marks splitting the top 3 teams – those half points made all the difference! Many thanks to Julia and Richard for keeping the scores on the doors on the evening!
1st Place – Ashley A
2nd Place – Uttoxeter C
3rd Place – Cheadle B
Well done to everyone that took part, and huge thanks to all those that assisted putting on this event for us – much appreciated.
Scoresheet can be downloaded HERE
Pictures from the evening can be seen HERE
Great start to 2024 with all 10 clubs being represented at Ten Pin Bowling
Results as follows;
1st – Cheadle 560pts
2nd – Chase 534pts
3rd – Uttoxeter B 502ptd
Female Highest Scorer;
1st – Abi, Uttoxeter
2nd – Kim, Cheadle
3rd – Kate, Cheadle
Male Highest Scorer;
1st – Robbie, Chase
2nd – Alex, Eccleshall
3rd – Greg, Cheadle
Pictures available HERE
1st – Uttoxeter – Abi, Iris Ross, Henry
2nd Joint – Waterhouses – Sophie , Amelia, Alice
2nd Joint – Paddy , Bethany Rose, George
1st – Chase – Laura , Madeline , Georgia
2nd – Eccleshall – Charlie , Katie , Barney
3rd – Waterhouses – Katie , Sophie, Alice
1st – Eccleshall – Megan Harvey, Ruby O’Reilly, Dan Bowers, Tom
2nd – Cheadle – Richard Sheldon, Thomas Whilock, Bertie Carr, Alfie Waring
3rd – Leek – Jordan Derbyshire, George, Lizzie James, Eddie
1st – Ashley – Olivia Larsson, Henry Robinson, Sam Atherton, Megan Blank, Bella Lucas
2nd – Leek – Issac Reaney, Martha Reaney, Elizabeth James, Jordan Derbyshire, Harry Lyons
3rd – Eccleshall A – Molly Sammons, Natalie Bradley, Jessica Powell, Edward Tyler, Alex Cartmail
Under 17yrs MOTY
1st – George – Cheadle
2nd – Abi – Uttoxeter
3rd – Georgia – Chase
18yrs over MOTY – MALE
1st – James Freeman – Chase
2nd – Danny Emmott – Ashley
18yrs over MOTY – FEMALE
1st – Emily Cartmail – Eccleshall to represent the County at WMA
2nd – Olivia Larsson – Ashley
3rd – Hollie Kelly – Chase
16-21yrs Situations Vacant
1st – Victoria – Waterhouses
2nd – Magnus Brown – Chase
3rd – Jessica Yardley – Eccleshall
22-28yrs Situations Vacant
1st – Kate Oakes – Chase
2nd – Will Sammons – Eccleshall
NFYFC Disco Dancing
1st – Chase
2nd – Ashley
3rd – Leek
Warwickshire YFC members were ahead of Gloucestershire YFC taking the Overall Team Cup at the English Winter Fair YFC Stock and Carcase Judging Competition held on Sunday 19th November. Their members fought off a very high standard of competition from over 110 young farmers’ members across 19 teams entered into this year’s English Winter Fair YFC Stock and Carcase Judging classes. The one-day competition was hailed a great success following a great comeback year for YFC clubs across England and Wales after the pandemic. Staffordshire YFC organise this competition and their County Chairman, James Freeman, said “We had 19 teams entered from 15 counties across England and Wales this year. The popularity of our competitions is high amongst the members and they enjoy the quality stock and carcases available to judge as well as the facilities at the County Showground in Stafford.”
The English Winter Fair took place at the weekend, 18th – 19th November and the YFC classes were kindly sponsored by IAE with very generous prize monies on offer. Young Farmers were able to judge Live Lamb and Beef Classes and Lamb and Beef Carcase Classes thanks to support from the show organiser, Staffordshire & Birmingham Agricultural Society along with IAE Frank Klucznik, Managing Director said ‘Congratulations not only to all of the competitors who received a prize card in yesterday’s Stock and Carcase Judging event, but also to all those who partook in the competition. It was a fantastic spectacle to see so many enthusiastic, talented members of YFC in the main ring and it was a real privilege for myself, on behalf of IAE to present the awards. Many congratulations again!’
Frank Klucznik of IAE alongside the English Winter Fair Committee Chairlady, Sandra Hopley, presented the members with their prize cards in the main ring.
In the Live Lambs class, judged in Bingley Hall, with the lambs kindly provided by Madders & Johnson, the highest scoring Senior Competitor was awarded Jonny Rogers of Shropshire YFC with 87 points. The Overall Intermediate Competitor was Isla of Gloucestershire YFC with 94 points. The highest scoring team in this class was awarded to Somerset for their combined total of 177 points.
The Live Beef class was judged in the stalls, with some fine cattle provided by the very supportive exhibitors at the show. The highest scoring Senior Competitor was Lottie Hill of Somerset YFC with 99 points. In the Intermediate Section, John Jeyes of Warwickshire YFC came first with 98 points. As a team, Montgomery YFC took first place in this class scoring a combined total of 190 points.
The Carcase Classes were all judged in the excellent Carcase Hall facility with carcasses very kindly provided by Messrs Bradshaw Bros. In the Lamb Carcase class, the Overall Senior Competitor was won Georgia Thatcher of Worcestershire YFC with 95 points. The Overall Intermediate Competitor was awarded jointly to Cai Edwards of Glamorgan YFC and Emyr of Herefordshire YFC with 93 points. The Overall team in this section was won by the team from Glamorgan YFC who achieved a combined total of 181 points.
The final class of the day was the Beef Carcase Class. The Overall Senior Competitor was won jointly by Rhondda Warner-King of Gloucestershire YFC and Merv Powell of Herefordshire with 92 points. The Overall Intermediate Competitor was Rosie of Worcestershire YFC with 81 points. The Overall Team in this final class was won by Gloucestershire YFC with a combined total of 172 points.
The Michael Bradshaw Award for the Overall Stockjudging Team was awarded to Somerset YFC with Montgomery YFC in second place and Warwickshire YFC in third place. The Michael Bradshaw Award for the Overall Carcase Judging Team was awarded jointly to Glamorgan YFC and Gloucestershire YFC with Warwickshire YFC taking third place.
After a full day of judging, The Birmingham Agricultural Exhibition Society Silver Challenge Cup, awarded for the Overall Team on the day went to Warwickshire YFC after they gained a grand total of 689 points in all the classes. They were followed by Gloucestershire YFC in second place with 687 points and in third place, Glamorgan YFC with 680 points.
Stockjudging and Carcase judging competitions remain a very important and competitive sector in the Young Farmers Federations across the country, as this day has demonstrated so well. The facilities at the English Winter Fair are ideal for YFC to showcase this. Next year, the English Winter Fair committee will continue to host these competitions for YFC members and looks forward to welcoming the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs again, to take part in this very successful show, with their Live and Carcase Judging Competition Finals, which were also held again at the Show this year.
Photos from the day can be found HERE
PHOTOS OF PRIZE WINNERS CAN BE FOUND HERE
Most Outstanding County Officer: Harry Butson-Competitions Chair and Olivia Lockett-Development Chair.
David Palij Award: Awarded to the Club that has done the most for charity/community work during the last 12 months.
Winner: Ashley YFC; Runners up: Leek YFC
Manifold Marketing Award: Awarded to the Club who best promotes their Club and engagement in Club, County & Community Events.
Winner: Ashley YFC, Runners-up: Eccleshall YFC
The Richard Mottershead Club Programme Award: Awarded to the Club gaining the highest number of points within the Club Efficiency Competition for the Club Programme section.
Winner: Ashley YFC; Joint Runners up: Eccleshall YFC & Uttoxeter JNFU
Scrapbook Award: Awarded to the Club who produces the most interesting and unique scrapbook based on the activities of their own Club over the past membership year.
Winner: Ashley YFC, Runner Up: Lichfield YFC
Junior Stockjudging Cup: Winner: Waterhouses YFC, Runner Up: Uttoxeter JNFU.
Intermediate Stockjudging Cup: Winner: Chase YFC, Runner Up: Leek YFC.
Senior Stockjudging Cup: Winner: Uttoxeter JNFU, Runner Up: Chase YFC.
Overall Stockjudging Cup: Winner: Chase YFC & Waterhouses YFC, Runner Up: Uttoxeter JNFU.
Most Improved Club – Competitions Cup: Awarded to the Club that has achieved the highest improvement in points for competitions from the 2020/2021 year.
Winner: Stone YFC; Runner Up: Eccleshall YFC
Small Clubs Trophy: Awarded to one of the four smallest Clubs in the County with regard to membership, that has achieved the most points throughout the year for competitions.
Winner: Cheadle YFC; Runner Up: Lichfield YFC
Mr Ken Unwin MBE Memorial Cup: Awarded to the Club who most improves in Public Speaking, Stock Judging, Carcase Judging and Tug of War.
Winner: Cheadle YFC; Joint Runners Up: Abbotsholme, Ashley and Chase YFC
Overall Competitions Cup: Presented to the club with the most points for the Competitions that have been held for the last 12 months:
Joint Winners: Eccleshall YFC and Uttoxeter JNFU; Runner Up: Chase YFC
W.H.D. Hobson Cup: Awarded to the Club with the highest increase in membership.
Winner: Chase YFC, Runner Up: Abbotsholme YFC
Newsletter Shield: For the best contribution to the Young Farmers’ Book of the Year
Winners: Ashley YFC; Runner Up – Abbotsholme YFC
The David Stubbs Award: Donated by the Stubbs Family in 2022 in memory o Mr David Stubbs, Former County Chairman and Vice President of the Federation. It is awarded to the club who most improves in the competition areas which were davids passions. Namely, Dairy Stockjudging, Stickman of the year and Carcass Judging.
Winners: Chase YFC, Runners Up, Leek YFC.:
Mr & Mrs W.A. Taylor Senior Merit Award: Awarded to the most outstanding individual at Club or County level was presented Jessica Sammons and Natalie Bradley both of Eccleshall YFC who have both displayed outstanding leadership skills within their club and also to the County Federation.
Junior Merit Award: This is presented to the most outstanding junior individual at Club or County level was presented to Molly of Eccleshall YFC who has thrown herself to an array of activities and helped at many events within her club as well as at county events..
YFC Travel Certificates along with NFYFC Certificates of Achievement were also presented to all members who had taken part in the National Federation of Young Farmers finals of various competitions throughout the year too.
The final awards of the evening are the most prestigious to receive and are judged throughout the year as a “Club Efficiency” Competition, which encapsulates all aspects of a YFC Club. The aim of the competition is to encourage members and Club Officers to work together as an effective team for the benefit of all members. Judges look for all aspects of how the clubs are run and hope to see good club administration and record keeping, strong leadership and governance and active promotion of the clubs through publicity and community engagement. They also want to see teamwork, ideas and enthusiasm from all club members. From this competition, the following awards were presented:
Most Outstanding Chairman: Winner: Tom Bowers, Eccleshall YFC
Runner-up: Danny Emmott, Ashley YFC
Most Outstanding Secretary: Winner: Natalie Bradley, Eccleshall YFC
Joint Runners-up: Olivia Lockett, Ashley YFC & Hollie Kelly, Chase YFC
Most Outstanding Treasurer: Winner: Toby Hall, Uttoxeter JNFU
Runner-up: Charlotte Martin, Ashley YFC
Most Outstanding Club Leader: Winner: Jack Salt, Ashley YFC
Runner-up: Jessica Sammons, Eccleshall YFC
Club Efficiency Shield: Winner: Ashley YFC
Runner-up: Uttoxeter JNFU
On Thursday 5th October a total of nine clubs were represented at the Carcase Judging Competition – many thanks to TG Sargeants of Bramshall for kindly hosting the competition for Lamb & Beef carcases.
Many thanks to the judges, stewards and scorers for supporting the competition, and also thanks for the members competing too.
Photos can be seen HERE
Results as follows;
CARCASE JUDGING RESULTS
16 & UNDER – BEEF
1ST Jack H Lichfield 82pts
2ND Oliver F Chase 81pts
3RD Sam W Chase 79pts
16 & UNDER – LAMB
1ST Adam R Uttoxeter 79pts
=2ND Alice W Waterhouses 72pts
=2nd George L Cheadle 72pts
21 & UNDER – BEEF
1ST Hollie Kelly Chase 140pts
2ND Molly Bratton Eccleshall 131pts
=3RD Katie B Waterhouses 129pts
=3rd Thomas Whilock Cheadle 129pts
21 & UNDER – LAMB
=1ST Jessica Yardley Eccleshall 123pts
=1st Adele S Waterhouses 123pts
3RD Alfie Waring Cheadle 121pts
28 & UNDER – BEEF
1ST Connor Whitehead Eccleshall 145pts
2ND Rob Mollatt Uttoxeter 139pts
3RD Lizzy James Leek 138pts
28 & UNDER – LAMB
1ST Mark Baskerville Eccleshall 138pts
2ND James Freeman Chase 130pts
3rd Kate Oakes Chase 129pts
1ST ECCLESHALL 678pts
2ND CHASE 663pts
3RD UTTOXETER 649pts