Oxford Real Farming Conference Global 2021 starts in just three days

Starting this Thursday, January 7 at 12 noon (GMT) ORFC Global 2021 will bring together thousands of farmers and food activists from across the world  Our new video gives a taster of what to expect. This is the biggest ever gathering of the real food and farming movement! We are proud and excited to be welcoming over 500 speakers from 75 countries at this crucial time in the future of our food and farming system.

Have you booked your tickets yet?



BeyondHERE webinars start next week (October 26)

The BeyondHere fellowship series is back with a new Autumn/Winter webinar programme that connects UK communities with inspiring international initiatives and approaches from other parts of the world.

Running from 26 October – 30 November facilitators from six global cities will share their place-based experience to explore new models of democratic working, local economic development, systems change, and education.

The series will include

+ Study Groups & Local Co-op Development
+ Impact Capital & the Growth of Employee Ownership
+ The Future of Organisational Design
+ Barefoot Lawyers & the Environment
+ Make your own Distributed Co-operative Organisation (DisCO)

NB For those of you who are fans of Ivan Illich – one of the most radical thinkers of the late 20th century, this webinar presented by Dougald Hine (co-founder of Dark Mountain and a school called HOME) will tell the story of his journey into the world of Illich’s friends and co-conspirators, how their work contributed to movements from Asset-Based Community Development to the Zapatistas, and how it can nourish the work of regenerative culture today.

To book your place go to www.stirtoaction.com/beyondhere

Fully funded places are also available – there are about 20 left.  To apply go here


First Northern Real Farming Conference starts Sept 28

We are delighted to announce that the Northern Real Farming Conference programme is now live on the website and is being updated daily as we approach the event.
There are over 60 sessions focusing on business models, nature friendly farming, upland farming, cooperative and community supported agriculture, horticulture, public good, procurement, policy, ELMS, water management and more.
Join the network: share your experiences and network with other farmers, researchers and colleagues from the North of England and Scotland.
If you haven’t already booked your place you can still buy your tickets for the event.
Please do pass on details to colleagues, collaborators and friends who may wish be part of this event and the development of stronger northern real farming networks.
You can follow the event on Facebook or Twitter.

Real Farming Trust new position advertised: Communications Coordinator

The Real Farming Trust is looking for an experienced part-time communications coordinator who would be responsible for helping to develop and implement its communications strategy, including communication around the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) and associated events and other RFT programmes, but also the management of RFT’s wider communications, press, social media and websites.

Specific duties include:

  • To support the Event Manager and Senior Management Team with the development and delivery of a communications strategy and plan and act as the first point of contact for communications, monitoring and reporting progress and making sure the right members of the team are kept up to date and in the loop.
  • To ensure that our work is promoted effectively through media relations, social media, marketing communications, events and our website(s).
  • To support the ORFC team with event promotion and communications and to develop stories around our work, particularly in the lead up to ORFC and other events, and pitch these to targeted press.
  • To support other programme specific communications, including promoting the Loans for Enlightened Agriculture Programme and our new project, the College for Real Farming and Food Culture
  • To take charge of our social media – regularly getting material from the team, devising messages and campaigns and putting the right images together.
  • To work with the team to build and maintain a bank of case studies and personal stories and gather material for blog posts.
  • To ensure that communications are built on firm foundations by checking that all relevant legal and best practice procedures are in place, e.g. data protection.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on 21st September 2020. Interviews will take place via video conference on one of the following dates: 23rd, 29th or 30th September 2020. Unfortunately, we are not able to respond to those who are unsuccessful in getting an interview. Successful applicants will be notified by 22nd September.

For all further details please see here

Agriculture Bill – 3rd Reading tomorrow (May 13): still time to ask your MP

There’s still time (just) to ask your MP to ask for certain key amendments to the Agriculture Bill which is being hastened through parliament in order to gain Royal Assent by the autumn. Here’s the link to the webpage with details of how and what to send your MP.

And here’s what Colin Tudge has to say about it:

The third reading of the government’s Agriculture Bill on Wednesday (May 13) is crucial, though it will probably attract very little attention from the British media and arouse commensurately little interest among MPs. For nothing matters more to humanity and to the natural world than agriculture and as things are, despite appearances and all the rhetoric, Britain’s agriculture like that of most of the world is a disaster: profitable for a few no doubt but hugely damaging ecologically and socially and obviously unsustainable. 
There are a couple of amendments to the original bill that are of outstanding importance. One says in effect that trade cannot and must not be conceived simply as a way of maximising short-term profit but as a means to improve wellbeing – good economically and socially both for sellers and buyers and raising the general quality of food. Others stress the absolute importance of agroecology – which, mercifully, for the past few years has enjoyed the services of its own All-Party Parliamentary Group, now chaired by Labour MP Kerry McCarthy. Britain’s and the world’s farming must move away from the neoliberal mindset which says that “farming is just a business like any other” and that business is just another way of making money, and embrace the idea that the job of agriculture is to provide good food for everyone, and provide good jobs, and look after the the biosphere. Otherwise we’re sunk.  Watch this space.

New study shows the “insect apocalypse” not quite as bad as thought

The research was published in Science (April 24 2020)

Abstract as follows:

Recent case studies showing substantial declines of insect abundances have raised alarm, but how widespread such patterns are remains unclear. We compiled data from 166 long-term surveys of insect assemblages across 1676 sites to investigate trends in insect abundances over time. Overall, we found considerable variation in trends even among adjacent sites but an average decline of terrestrial insect abundance by ~9% per decade and an increase of freshwater insect abundance by ~11% per decade. Both patterns were largely driven by strong trends in North America and some European regions. We found some associations with potential drivers (e.g., land-use drivers), and trends in protected areas tended to be weaker. Our findings provide a more nuanced view of spatiotemporal patterns of insect abundance trends than previously suggested.

A piece in ScienceAlert by Mike Mcrae, April 24 2020 gives an overview (extract as follows):

News of an insect apocalypse has become a familiar headline in recent years, with study after study pointing to an alarming loss in invertebrate numbers. As consistent as the message seems, the results don’t always agree with one another.

A new study led by ecologists from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research suggests the decline in global populations might not be as steep as we thought, and could actually be improving in some areas.

That conclusion might appear to be in stark contrast to claims we heard last year that 40 percent of all insect species face extinction, with some claiming an annual decline of 2.5 percent in their numbers worldwide, or even higher in some corners of the globe.

But taken in context, the new study builds a picture that shows how important it is to protect our environment and pay close attention to this vital part of the biosphere.

By compiling more than 160 surveys monitoring the weight of insect and arachnid populations around the globe, the researchers were able to get a good sense of the biomass and distributions of creepy crawlies dating as far back as 1925.

Their figures suggest there’s a marked difference in trends for invertebrates in different ecosystems in different parts of the world.


COVID-19 and food supply: MPs seek assurances from Secretary of State 

This from EFRACOM’s press release:

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee has today written to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as part of its inquiry into COVID-19 and food supply.


Following discussions with officials, the cross-party Select Committee asks for further information, including on:


  • Government action to protect food suppliers adversely affected as a result of decreased demand in the foodservice sector and steps to enable takeaway and restaurant businesses to re-open whilst adhering to public safety advice.


  • Efforts to recruit UK nationals for seasonal agricultural labour, including success to date. The Committee also asks about measures taken to ensure that seasonal workers still arriving from overseasare appropriately tested.


  • The number of people having trouble accessing healthy food as a result of the pandemic. The Committee is calling for further support to be provided to support the redistribution of surplus food to food charities.


Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, said:


“From our discussions with Ministers and officials in recent weeks, it’s clear that the Government is working incredibly hard and we welcome the action it has taken. But I am concerned that we will see long term damage to our ability to produce high quality food in the UK, and many more people at risk of going hungry. One immediate step would be greater support to help charities redistribute surplus food meant for closed cafes and restaurants to the people who need it most. We will be taking further evidence on this next month.”

Committee Membership

Neil Parish MP (Chair) (Conservative, Tiverton & Honiton); Geraint Davies MP (Labour, Swansea West); Dave Doogan MP (SNP, Angus); Rosie Duffield MP (Labour, Canterbury); Mary Glindon MP (Labour, North Tyneside); Dr Neil Hudson MP (Conservative, Penrith and The Border); Robbie Moore MP (Conservative, Keighley); Mrs Sheryll Murray MP (Conservative, South East Cornwall); Toby Perkins (Labour, Chesterfield); Julian Sturdy (Conservative, York Outer) and Derek Thomas (Conservative, St Ives).

Ecological Land Cooperative’s Community Share Offer – still open; doing well; needing your support

Small Farms, BIG solutions.
Help the Ecological Land Cooperative create more farms for local food production by joining as an investor member.
Invest any amount from £500 and gain 3% interest whilst securing access to land for new entrant farmers.
Their latest film (shown here) documents the success of their previous ventures

You can find out more about their share offer at: https://www.ethex.org.uk/elc2020.

Michael Shulman: Eight Principles for post Covid-19 Reconstruction

Michael Shulman takes Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage and turns it on its head to become The Theory of Comparative Resilience.  You can read the whole blog here

These are his eight criteria by which to measure your community’s comparative resilience:

(1) Local Ownership – What percentage of jobs are in businesses owned by people living in your community?  A high percentage means your community is relatively independent and will enjoy the high multiplier benefits of local businesses buying from one another.  Local businesses have always been the building blocks of a successful economy, but now we can’t afford to get distracted by global businesses. Putting a penny into attracting an Amazon HQ—let alone a few billion dollars—rather than expanding locally owned businesses is the most counterproductive approach to economic development imaginable.

(2) Local Investment – To what extent are your residents investing in local businesses, projects, and people?  Localizing purchasing patterns boosts prosperity but it’s not enough. Why invest in global companies, about which you know little and which leave you vulnerable to the whims of public markets, when you can make a higher return, with less risk, by investing in the merchants you love, or your city’s stormwater management system, or getting your son out of student loan debt?

(3) Economic Diversity – Is your economy diverse enough to meet the basic needs of residents?  Put another way, how self-reliant is your economy? The more self-reliant you are – on local food, energy, water, and finance – the less global disruptions will matter.  Diversity also boosts your local economic multipliers, which increases income, wealth, and jobs.

(4) Regeneration – Is your economy living within its natural means?  We are already spending 70-80% of our family budgets on services, which is great news for sustainability, because most service businesses have light environmental footprints.  But even for goods like food, water, wood, and paper, we will need to bring inputs of our diverse industries in line with what our local ecosystems can renewably provide.

(5) Innovation – To what extent are you fostering local innovation?  The key to economic dynamism is entrepreneurship. Is every person in your community with a great business idea, especially young people, able to find the capital, people, space, and partnerships needed to succeed?  The proliferation of incubators, maker spaces, and shared workspaces are among the many tools communities can deploy realize this objective.

(6) Social Equity – Is your community economy leaving no one behind, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, and so forth? Look out for blind spots in your economic-development strategy.  One reason to embrace locally owned businesses is that we know, thanks to studies by the Federal Reserve, that communities with high densities of local business have higher per capita incomes and less inequality.  Entrepreneurship and workforce development programs should focus on those who most need inclusion. This means embracing social inventions like worker cooperatives, community land trusts, and Time Dollar systems.

(7) Connectivity – To what extent is your community cosmopolitan and connected with the rest of the world? Are your businesses learning from their peers elsewhere? Are your policymakers?  Those connections—especially with people, culture, and knowledge—will allow you to take advantage of the best of what the world offers, without becoming dangerously dependent on it.  When other communities get in trouble, your connections will enable you to offer help. When you get in trouble, they can help you.

(8) Social Performance of Business – Are all your businesses embracing the principles above?  How many, for example, are measuring their performance through tools like the B-Corp assessment?  Those businesses that are monitoring their social performance with respect to their workers and other stakeholders and are steadily trying to improve it should be recognized and rewarded, and their practices shared and spread with other local businesses.

Small emergency loan programme

Providing critical funds to the food sector during the Covid-19 crisis

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the fragility and vulnerability of our globalised food system and our reliance on long, just in time supply chains. This has led to a big increase in demand for local food but many agroecological producers and community food businesses have had to stop taking on new customers due to lack of resources, staff and supply chain difficulties.

We want to try and do something to help these organisations through this crisis, both ensuring that they are able to survive, but also helping them to meet growing demand by developing new routes to market and scaling their operations for the long term.

LEAP’s offer

We are offering the following funding for a period of 3 months from 1st April 2020:

  • Small unsecured loans from £5,000 to £20,000
  • 3-month capital and interest holiday, followed by 12-month capital holiday
  • Interest rate: 5%
  • Term: 5 years and 3 months
  • Quick decision (we aim for funds to be paid to successful organisations within 14 days of application)
  • Arrangement fee: Waived while this offer is open.

No grant will be paid with these small loans. If you need more than £20,000 of funding please apply to the general LEAP programme (which provides a blended financial package of loans, grants and mentoring) in the usual way.


The focus for this funding will be on established community food businesses and agroecological growers and it can be used for anything that helps them navigate this crisis. The investment could be used for working capital to develop new routes to market or to scale up production to meet growing demand. It can be used for recruiting more staff, investing in IT and delivery vehicles, new processing facilities and equipment. We have set the following main criteria:

  • At least 50% of income must come from food and drink production or sales
  • Must have been established and trading for at least 3 years and have a turnover of at least £40,000
  • Must be constituted as a CBS, CIC, CLG, Coop or CIO. We cannot fund sole traders, partnerships or CLSs
  • We will look for evidence that you meet our enlightened agriculture and social impact criteria

Application process

We ask for the following basic information:

  • Brief description of the business
  • The amount required and what it will be used for
  • Last set of approved accounts
  • Most recent set of quarterly management accounts
  • Legal form of governance
  • Information on what the loan will be used for
  • Information on security of tenure
  • A brief social impact statement

To apply, please fill out this brief application form. We aim to reply within 24 hours with any follow-up questions, and will ask you to send us your last set of approved accounts and your most recent set of quarterly management accounts.

If you have any questions please contact us at leap@feanetwork.org