By Alicia Miller
After a busy summer of meetings to pull together this year’s Wales Real Food and Farming Conference (WRFFC), the programme is really coming together for 24-26 November.
It’s a stimulating and exciting project to be a part of, though for me it requires a delicate balancing act between my work at the Sustainable Food Trust, running an organic horticulture business with my husband (Troed y Rhiw Farm) and contributing to the WRFFC programme content. I’m not always on top of things! That said, this is such an important thing to be involved in – opening up the vital conversations that we need to have around our food and farming systems and working towards how we make them better, more friendly to nature and more sustainable in all ways.
The WRFFC will be online again this year, after a hopeful start that we might pull off an in-person event; but with Covid still significantly active across Wales (currently we are the country with the highest number of Covid cases in the UK), we had to make a very difficult decision.
However, we will hold the thought of a live in-person event for next year, when the pandemic should be wrapping up, and we can meet face to face again. It’s been a very tough couple of years, but it’s important that we look beyond the pandemic to the wider, and arguably much more pressing, issues facing us as regards the climate emergency. Food and farming sit at a critical nexus in this crisis and we must address how to help rather than hinder the change that we need to make.
With the 2020 WRFFC a fantastic success, we feel confident that this year’s conference will be just as good. The WRFFC will look at a range of current topics across three days, exploring what defines a fair and sustainable food system, whilst also offering practical sessions on improving the sustainability of farming practices.
We have three great guest speakers to get us thinking and doing: Tim Lang Professor Emeritus at City University, London getting right to the heart of a fair and sustainable food system; Prof Lois Mansfield from Cumbria University digging into why hill farming is so important to our biodiversity; and Adam Jones (or Adam yn yr ardd as he’s better known) on encouraging young people to grow food. The Welsh Government will also be joining the WRFFC with an update on Welsh food and farming policy.
Then there is a full programme of presentations and discussions, on topics such as the Wales Community Food Strategy, food as medicine, responding to controversial developments such as intensive poultry units, and a new Global Farm Metric. We will explore growing fruit and nuts, cooperative models for food chains, grassroots food democracy, livestock in integrated systems, reducing Wales’ contribution to tropical deforestation and agroforestry. There will also be informal networking sessions.
And I’m especially looking forward to a panel that I’m coordinating on a topic close to my heart: how do we make sustainable farming and growing a meaningful and deeply important thing for young people to be doing? We need to inspire and support a new generation to feel passionate about farming, to believe deeply that caring for the land and all that lives on it is one of the most important things to be doing in the world today.
So, both listen and bring your voice to the Conference and be heard. Tickets are available at £5, £20 or £35 plus Eventbrite booking fee. Follow the link.
Alicia’s work on the WRFFC is supported by the Sustainable Food Trust.