A farming business fit for the future?

OFC 2021

4:00pm 6th January 2021


As stewards of 72% of the land and the foundation of rural economies, farmers could be a crucial force for change in the UK’s recovery over the next decade. As more and more farm businesses adopt ecologically-founded, socially beneficial and financially-resilient approaches to meet future risk head on, many others feel uncertain about the future, or locked into current business models. How might agroecology work as a business model, how does it relate to regenerative farming practices, and what do farmers really need to help them plan for a more resilient and sustainable future? Hear from farmers and business advisors as they share their experiences of transitioning farm businesses to be fit for the future.

The event will also provide an opportunity to reflect on FFCC's December 2020 publication, Farming smarter: the case for agroecological enterprise, and to look ahead to the publication of FFCC's next report Farming for Change: mapping a route to 2030, which sets out an evidence base for a transition to agroecology in the UK.

ffinlo Costain, producer of the Farm Gate Podcast will host a discussion featuring agroecological ambassadors George Young (Fobbing Farm), Nikki Yoxall (Grampian Grazers) and Johnnie Balfour (Balbirnie Farm) in conversation with agribusiness development specialist Roland Bonney.

Liz Bowles, OFC Director and Associate Director of the Soil Association, and Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission will provide opening remarks.


Liz Bowles, OFC Director and Associate Director of Farming and Land Use at the Soil Association

Liz is Associate Director for Farming and Land Use at the Soil Association leading the charity’s work with farmers. Liz has worked within the agri-food sector for over 20 years in a number of leading roles. She is a Nuffield scholar and manages one of the largest pedigree flocks of Shropshire sheep in the UK.

Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive, Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

Sue is the Chief Executive of FFCC and is focused on leading the organisation in its mission to bring people together to find radical and practical ways to transform our food system and improve our climate, nature, health & economy. Sue brings extensive experience working with leaders in businesses, governments and enterprises, blending the academic and the practical for sustainable systems change. Sue lives with her family on an organic, permaculture, livestock farm in Wales, which accounts for pretty much all of her time outside of FFCC, and is a grounding reminder of the gritty realities of turning ideas into workable actions.

ffinlo Costain

ffinlo is the chief executive of Farmwel, a think tank working for climate, nature and food security. He produces the Farm Gate podcast, featuring thought leaders discussing the various dimensions of sustainable food systems. ffinlo has a background in politics, farming, NGOs and communications, with expertise in the positioning of agricultural policy in the social and political context.

George Young, zero-till mixed farmer and agroecology ambassador working with the Soil Association

George is a zero-till mixed farmer in Fobbing, Essex, where he farms 1200 acres in partnership with his parents. George grows wheat, beans, barley, oilseed rape, peas and linseed and is also trialling niche crops, including heritage cereals, buckwheat for Hodmedods, hemp and teff, reflecting a desire to move toward nutritious and natural food production. George is passionate about supporting the farms ecology and wildlife and improving soil health.

Nikki Yoxall, owner of Grampian Grazers and agroecology ambassador working with the Soil Association

Last year, Nikki and her husband James set up Grampian Grazers at Howemill, Huntly in Abderdeenshire, starting with their 18 acres and small herd of native breed cattle, in an agroforestry system. They are working with other local landowners to expand their capacity and grow their herd.

Johnnie Balfour, owner of Balbirnie Farm, an AHDB strategic farm, and agroecology ambassador working with the Soil Association

Johnnie farms 3200 acres of mixed cereals and vegetables (wheat, barley, oats, fava beans, potatoes, carrots, cauliflowers, cabbages and kale), beef cattle (Aberdeen Angus, Salers, Simmental and Luing) and forestry, with his father and a team of six farm staff, including a farm manager. Balbirnie was chosen as AHDB’s Strategic Cereal Farm in Scotland this year. He believes in regenerative agriculture and integrated farm enterprises.

Roland Bonney, Agribusiness development specialist and co-founder, Benchmark Holdings

Roland Bonney is co-founder of Benchmark Holdings, a company whose mission is to enable food producers to improve their sustainability and profitability, working across 70 countries. Roland is an experienced agriculturalist who, prior to co-founding the Benchmark group, established his own farming business and then a food chain research and development consultancy for global food retailers, food service and food production companies. Roland is currently working on several new business development projects within the international transition to sustainable agriculture, food chains and land use.

More about the Oxford Farming Conference

The 2021 Oxford Farming Conference will be hosted as a digital one-day conference. The theme “Business as Unusual” could not come at a more important time, just 7 days after leaving the EU and with the pandemic changing life and business as we once knew it.