Radicals vs Conventionals: Part I

Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) is radical, not in the Beano sense of black fedoras and smoking bombs, but at least in the sense outlined here. The ORFC aims to show-case and bring together some (as many as possible) of the novel approaches on all fronts (husbandry, science, politics, economics, metaphysics) that are already contributing to the Agrarian Renaissance (even if their perpetrators are not formally signed up to the renaissance idea). The ORFC is a project of the Real Farming Trust (RFT), a registered charity, together with the College for Real Farming and Food Culture (CRFFC) which seeks to identify and develop all the necessary ideas on all fronts that are needed to put the Agrarian Renaissance onto a firm footing; and Funding Enlightened Agriculture (FEA) which seeks to help enterprises of all kinds (but mainly small farms) that are helping the Renaissance to happen. The Campaign for Real Farming is in reality a website – this one: an on-line magazine to help hold everything together.

The Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) in contrast does not apparently begin with the premise that farming should be designed primarily along enlightened lines (agroecology, food sovereignty), or that we need an Agrarian Renaissance. The OFC takes it to be self-evident (or seems to) that farming first and foremost must conform to the economic and political status quo – i.e. that it must be “conventional”. Various people have suggested over the years that the two conferences should work together. Both, after all, are concerned with agriculture and to that extent they are on the same side, and as Winston Churchill said, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war”. Most delegates to both conferences would surely claim that they want the world to be a better place, and to a very large extent they would surely agree on what a better world would look like (including an end to hunger and mass extinction and general environmental run-down).

Yet, at least as things stand, we must recognize that the two approaches are very different – and the difference at its core is one of mindset: whether we can make the kind of world we really need and most people surely want (deep down) within the present economic and logistic status — which I take to be the view of the OFC); or whether and by how much and by what means we need to change the status quo — which is the radical view and is the thinking behind the ORFC.

Of course, that in itself could be a most interesting discussion, with huge (endless) ramifications.

Colin Tudge, August 14 2017

2 thoughts on “Radicals vs Conventionals: Part I

  1. The thing that I find really depressing is how quickly China is scrambling to copy the mistakes of “the west”, adopting industrial farming to the exclusion of small family farms, having swallowed the notion that this represents “progress”. Huge profits made because spiralling health and environmental costs are discounted. Rural depopulation is seen as inevitable in the march toward “efficiency”.

  2. In principle I agree with you Dave R., but China is also profoundly enigmatic and extraordinarily rife with (historic) contradictions. The ostensibly communist leadership has gambled both its populace and their environment; but having capitalized these natural assets, it now faces the challenge of restoring and regenerating severely damaged and polluted ecosystems & necessarily also, the health of its people.

    So it is perhaps ironic that they have, officially at least, under the rubric of the five-year-plan cycle, adopted a goal-orientated strategy that is laid out in a UN document entitled Green is Gold, the Strategy and Actions of China’s Ecological Civilization http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/sites/unep.org.greeneconomy/files/publications/greenisgold_en_20160519.pdf

    Meanwhile, here in the (intensive) European farming context, new German research has just revealed a staggering 75% loss of insects over the last 25 years….within their own nature reserves!


    Colin articulates the general situation brilliantly. It is high time more people started listening and began to recognize the virtue of refraining from spouting sheer nonsense, when the ecological facts (of planetary life) are so abundantly coherent; acutely clear as never before, yet urgently dire and drastic…. calling out for immediate action ~ clear, that is, to anyone with sufficient cognitive imagination & ‘nous’ to grasp the nettle of reality.

    My view is that (strategic) policy here, elsewhere, in Europe and the US especially, and Chinese policy in particular…. (as we can no longer trust the United States to behave rationally….if indeed it ever has, if by ‘reason’ we mean ~ according to the most intelligent criteria humanity has at its discretionary disposal) ….needs to proceed from a deep understanding of the metaphysics of the possible; which in essentially human terms, must mean cultivating the will to live according to whatever ethical and scientific principles best accommodate the greatest number, for the greatest benefit of all species.

    By way of a brief postcript: altho’ I am neither a metaphysical dogmatist, a bible-believer, nor any sort of apologist for ‘christist’ altruism or scriptural literalism generally, but arguably an ‘inclusive’ esotericist….Paul Kingsnorth’s selection of Wendell Berry’s masterly writings over fifty years or so, makes wonderfully thought provoking reading…(not to be confused, as I have been previously in my map-less journeying, with the influential ideas of the late ‘eco-theologian’ Thomas Berry ~ he of the “Great Work,” Nature as a ‘communion of subjects’ etc….


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