Oxford Farming Conference to proceed as digital event in 2021

Plans are already being put in place for the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) to run as a digital event in 2021 – despite the event being more than six months away.

Organisers have announced plans to launch monthly ‘bitesize’ webinars culminating in a digital conference in 2021.

A statement explained it came “amidst the uncertainty for people, travel and gatherings”. The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) will run a vibrant series of OFC Bitesize webinars culminating in a digital OFC 2021.

OFC Bitesize will run monthly, through the conference’s website, from June 4. The seminars will draw insights from a host of different businesses and regions and will be chaired by the conference’s directors.

OFC 2021 chairman Sally Williams said: “Since the OFC started in 1936, other than the war years, it has been held annually ever since, so 2021 will see us host our 75th conference.

To commemorate the influence of the event and the speakers that we have attracted over the past nine decades, OFC Bitesize will pick a theme from a past conference and debate its sentiments.

Previous themes include ‘Food and Farming in a Changing World’ (1961), ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ (1965) and ‘Farming Under Pressure’ (1971).

“People keep saying that Covid-19 has brought us an unprecedented time; this may or may not be true, but what we all do know is that there is likely to be a new normal after this pandemic that will force change,” Williams added.

As a young dairy farmer, I’m both nervous and optimistic about the future; my overriding hope is that we learn from these times and agriculture rises up the agenda.

Making a decision on 2021

Given the OFC’s charitable status, Williams explained that the OFC Council had to make the decision about cancelling the 2021 conference now.

“We run the event at break-even or a slight loss, so we couldn’t have the uncertainty of booking Oxford University only for us to have to cancel,” she said.

“As a council, we have talked long and hard about how we best deliver a successful and focussed conference next year.

“Whilst disappointed at not being able to hold a physical conference, we are very excited at the possibilities afforded to us by taking the conference fully virtual.

“Through the use of digital tools, we will be able to provide a rich experience bringing together international speakers who we might otherwise not have been able to include in the line-up.

Never before has it been more important that we look beyond our shores and learn from our colleagues across the world.

Taking place on Thursday, January 7, the 2021 OFC digital conference will include the politics, inspiring farmers, the Frank Parkinson Lecture, and the OFC Debate, providing a provocative virtual experience with the opportunity to engage through an online networking platform.

OFC Bitesize will be hosted at lunchtime on the first Thursday of every month offering a free one-hour webinar.

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