An independent charity, we were set up in 2017 to help shape the future of food and farming, land use and the countryside. Our purpose is to bring together people and ideas from different perspectives to find the practical and radical solutions which also tackle the climate, nature, health and economic crises of our time. We curate the latest research and evidence, involve citizens in deliberations, and tell the inspiring stories of people taking action in their businesses and communities.
We are working together for a world where healthy food is everyone’s business, farming is a force for positive change, the countryside works for everyone and resources flow to where the work is needed.
One of our most ambitious projects to date is a major new project involving citizens in the big questions about food. The first report from The Food Conversation launched in 2023 and has already had significant impact influencing the public debate about how food systems can become healthier, fairer and greener, bringing citizen voice to the fore. The project will reach citizens across all four countries of the UK in 2024.
Our report, Farming for Change, which modelled an agroecological future for the UK, was well received when it launched in 2021. It attracted significant attention across national media and online and continues to be one of the key reports about the agroecological transition cited today. We continue to publish new evidence and research and convene leadership around these issues with a regular series of symposia attracting key farming leaders throughout the year.
We first developed the idea of a Land Use Framework in our seminal report Our Future in the Land. The commitment by the government in 2022 to publish a Land Use Framework is one of a number of tangible outcomes from this report. We are now working closely with colleagues in government and civil society to ensure the learnings from our work to test a Multifunctional Land Use Framework in Devon and Cambridgeshire helps shape next steps for government. We are also developing a resource and community of practice for those engaged in the reality of delivering Multifunctional Land Use Frameworks on the ground.
A lot of the policy and action in our field is devolved. Our country directors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland lead specific projects relevant to their country’s political and policy landscape. We benefit from learning what works in these different jurisdictions and share this through hosting events across boundaries.
Baroness Rosie Boycott, House of Lords
FFCC benefits from the strategic support of a small number of core funders, whose mission and purpose aligns with ours including Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The Aurora Trust, Rothschilds, the Prince of Wales Charitable Fund, and Animula. In addition to core funding, we are also supported each year by a range of project funds which support specific programmes and initiatives (see more in our annual report). We are very grateful to all our funders for their advice and support which enables us to deliver our work in a distinctive way and amplify citizens' voices for a fairer, greener, healthier world.
We started off life in November 2017 as an independent inquiry led by a group of influential Commissioners. We commissioned research and sought practical solutions - including an innovation national bike tour to hear direct from citizens. This work formed the basis of a landmark report, Our Future in the Land, which was widely supported by ministers and welcomed on both sides of the aisle. Thanks to the success and impact of that report, we became an independent charity in April 2020.
We combine rigorous research with practical action - testing our ideas in places around the UK, convening leaders and shaping policy, and leading the way in bringing citizen voice into policy debate.
Lord Hague, The Times
In autumn 2023, FFCC published early findings from The Food Conversation. Our report found that citizens from all backgrounds and political leanings want government and businesses to act on food. Contrary to well-versed narratives, they don’t worry about a nanny state and expect government to take the hard decisions needed to protect people and planet.
These results were accompanied by nationwide polling that overwhelmingly supported what we heard in the citizen dialogues: 78% of people in the UK want big changes to food, including more support for people on low incomes to eat healthily, actions to tackle junk food, and better support for farmers. This short film showcasing some of the voices of the citizens involved has been watched by thousands of people.
Since then, The Food Conversation has featured regularly in the media, including on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours, The Telegraph and The Times, with endorsements from political figures on both sides of the House. It continues to show up in parliamentary proceedings and debates, including an EFRA Committee on supply chain fairness, a Westminster Hall debate on public procurement and a Scottish Rural Affairs and Islands Committee, ensuring citizen voice is at the centre of key food, farming and health policy debates.
We are now starting the next, even more ambitious, part of the project, expanding across UK nations and deploying new and innovative ways to bring citizens in touch with policymakers to change how people in government, in the media and business understand what people really want from food. At the same time, we are building links with partners across the UK to help people to act and innovate where they live, supporting the important work already happening in communities to transform the food system.
We convene leaders to foster and grow consensus on complex, contested and novel issues across programmes and the devolved nations. This consensus helps to generate shared commitments, innovative and practical ideas and build the critical mass necessary to achieve change.
Our Farming Leadership symposia series brings together leading figures in farming, food and land use. They meet to share ideas and work together to tackle the key issues facing the sector.
Commissioning, curating and communicating research and evidence strengthens scientific consensus and establishes practical, robust pathways for change. It also gives confidence to policymakers and helps reinforce a mandate for change.
Our research has helped to shape the debate about agroecology (both its potential to feed the nation and economic arguments for farmers), affordability of food, natural capital and land use policy.
We incubate new approaches that help develop capacity in communities and businesses, and showcase real world exemplars of change in action.
Our pilot projects in Devon and Cambridgeshire have been instrumental in helping to understand the opportunity presented by a land use framework.
We listen to and amplify citizen and practitioner voices, especially the seldom heard – and collate and amplify evidence of their desire for action on climate, nature, health and the economy.
We launched the biggest ever national conversation about food in 2023. Kicking off with deliberative dialogues in Birmingham and Cambridgeshire, the project will head out across UK nations in 2024, to ask what citizens really want from food.
Denise Bentley, Founder of First Love Foundation and FFCC Commissioner
The farming leadership group met throughout Covid-19 as an online forum, sharing insight, experience and advice with the programme team. In January 2023, they initiated a series of in-person meetings, bringing together diverse and expert perspectives from farming and finance (and other sectors) to tackle the problematic issues in food, farming and land use.
Our inaugural event focused on financing the transition to agroecology. FFCC Commissioners Helen Browning and David Fursdon chaired the event which was attended by FFCC Chair Sir Ian Cheshire, Defra minister Lord Benyon and senior figures from Triodos Bank, the Green Finance Institute, the NFU and others, as well as farmers already working towards more sustainable farming.
In June 2023, we convened supply chain experts, farmers and leaders for a second symposium to consider the complex challenges at the heart of fair and sustainable retail supply chains, and the barriers that prevent progress towards a more balanced system.
These symposia will continue to explore the critical areas of the farming transition in 2024, with a third symposium on food resilience in the spring.
Henry Dimbleby, House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee
We first proposed the idea of a Land Use Framework in 2019 in Our Future in the Land, and have since built a broad alliance around the proposal. A Land Use Framework is now supported by both sides of the House, with government committing to a Land Use Framework for England in 2022. The House of Lords Committee on Land Use in England, the Royal Society’s Living Landscapes report, the Glover Review and the Geospatial Commission’s Finding Common Ground report have echoed our findings and in turn been instrumental in building momentum.
Our pilot projects in Devon and Cambridgeshire have tested how a Multifunctional Land Use Framework could work in practice. In Devon, we partnered with the Environment Agency, the Geospatial Commission, the British Geological Survey and others to design and test land use decision-making mechanisms.
In Cambridgeshire, inclusive listening events helped us understand and explore local priority issues related to land use decisions, including developing an exciting new spatial mapping tool which collates disparate datasets to aid land use decision-making.
The House of Lords Land Use Committee and others have drawn on this evidence to call for a Multifunctional Land Use Framework, and our Rough Guide to the Multifunctional Land Use Framework is now helping to inform next steps for government. We continue to be a leading expert voice in the media and online.
Helen Browning, Soil Association
As regenerative and agroecological approaches gain traction in Northern Ireland’s farming communities, the Growing Innovation Network (GrowIN) network continues to facilitate collaborations and the sharing of experience, ideas and knowledge between farmers. Funding from the Aurora Trust (formerly Ashden Trust) has made it possible to have sufficient resources to deliver effective network engagement.
The FFCC’s GrowIN team delivered the Farm Biology campaign as a three-part series of online discussions with farmers covering soil, pasture and livestock – and shortlisted 11 students for the Innovation Competition with the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (sponsored by Germinal) to seek out innovations from the next generation of farmers, land managers and entrepreneurs in the sector.
After relaunching the steering group as a collaborative enterprise, joint funding bids strengthened relationships with organisations such as the Nature-Friendly Farming Network and National Trust, and enabled us to deliver valuable events such as Farm Carbon Training and Trees on Farms. Over the next three years, GrowIN will continue engaging with stakeholders, providing educational campaigns, fostering innovation and organising regular events for knowledge exchange and skill development.