EXACTLY ONE week on from the UK’s departure from the EU, the annual Oxford Farming Conference promises to be a hotbed for discussion on future policy direction as farmers gather virtually for a jam-packed day of debate.

The 2021 OFC will take place this year as a one-day conference on January 7, 2021, celebrating 75 years since the first conference was held in 1936.

The theme for the day ‘Business as Unusual’ is most apt, with farming entering a post-Brexit era, whilst continuing to navigate the pandemic and the constant challenges thrown at businesses.

Conference chair Sally Williams commented: “Covid has been tough, Brexit uncertainty has been tough, but fundamentally we have all just got on with business, we have made changes and have adapted and for us it was important the conference reflected that.”

The morning politics session at 9.25am will be a must watch of the day, with all four rural ministers from the the devolved nations coming together to discuss their different approaches to future policy and how they can work together to support the future of UK agriculture.

Ms Williams continued: “For the first time ever we have all four agricultural ministers from the four nations of the UK speaking and it will be an incredible opportunity to hear the different road maps that each country has and the direction we are going to be travelling in, and similar to the real farming conference it is hearing from the farmers who are doing it, with our tongue and cheek debate in the evening (7.15pm) ‘this house believes that first generation farmers are better than fourth.’


At 11.10am, a subject to the fore of every farmer’s mind, ‘Trade, Trade and Trade’ will headline the session, with an expert panel including: Arla Foods UK Managing Director Ash Amirahmadi; Trade and Ag Commission chair, Tim Smith; Waitrose Executive Director James bailey and Department for International Trade’s Rob Ward. Discussions will focus on the leadership required to manage the constant disruption that is impacting trade. There will also be a preview of the official findings from the Trade and Ag Commission, ahead of its launch in February.


Although farmers will not descend on Oxford for this year’s event, the conference organisers have been working hard to ensure that the online system allows for the same opportunities to network and mingle with other delegates through its interactive and engaging online format.

Delegates will be able to meet on virtual tables, change floors by taking the ‘elevator’ and pop up on ‘stage’ to ask the speaker a question. There is also a business lounge, if delegates need a few minutes away from networking to focus on some work and take a virtual coffee break.

It is recommended that participants join from a laptop or computer to make the most of the day as some functionality is limited on a phone or tablet.

Ms Williams explained that going virtual was always on the cards for the conference but expects that future conferences will likely use a hybrid format with a physical and digital offering.

“Ironically, going online is something the OFC has looked at for years, recently we have been broadcasting on YouTube and various other platforms. In a way this freed us to try all the different options and see what works best. Change is never easy, but I’m really excited about we have got going forward.

“Those chance corridor conversations and lunch queue conversations are still going to happen this year, but I expect next year’s directors will look at having a hybrid option.”

For more information on the event and for those still looking to buy a ticket, visit https://www.ofc.org.uk/conference/2021