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5 days later...

Lynda Brown: Spent the last few days digesting the conference and catching up on what I missed via the website. I usually come away fired up; I didn't this time - I'm still trying to work out why. The highlight for me was Prof. Hans Herren, President of the Milennium Institute. No spin, just plain speaking delivered with conviction of what the major problems are, how and where organic farming is contributing positively to the solution, and what needs to happen next. It helps that he has a world view (increasingly I find the Brit view is too skewered) and his phrase "no soil,no anything" hit the spot precisely...

07 March 2012 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 7

Collaborative working?

Rob Haward: Phil Bloomer from Oxfam has urged the organic movement to be more open to build alliances and share views with proponents of other types of farming systems. This must be regarded as sound advice in the face of ever increasing threats on global resources. But the organic movement may face its own problems with this approach – it is a difficult balance to be conciliatory and productive on the one hand, while being critical of poor practice on the other.

05 March 2012 | 9 Comments | Recommended by 25

Open up...and say 'ah ha'!

Pat Thomas: How do we decide what to eat? That was the subject of today’s Rethinking Diets panel discussion and debate.Most of us there expected some blue sky thinking but to say the skies turned a little thundery in our little room is an understatement.

02 March 2012 | 34 Comments | Recommended by 12

It can be done

Tim Young: Just got out of the Food for Life Partnership workshop at the conference. I can listen all day to the impact the programme has had in schools, and I was particularly taken with both Doug Bone, the head of Wandle Valley school in Sutton, and Stephanie Wood from School Food Matters.

02 March 2012 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 8

The Soil Association Organic market report

Graham Keating: The Soil Association’s Finn Cottle introduced the latest Soil Association Organic Market Report, published today. UK organic sales were down by 3.7% last year; bad news, on the back of two tough years for the organic market but the news isn’t all bad.

02 March 2012 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 1

What is the role of innovation in a resource constrained future?

Ed Dowding: The amount of change and turmoil in the world at the moment is pretty darned terrifying; and our collective insistence on pursuing a viscious cycle of destruction when we are surrounded by SO MANY opportunities to change this is nothing short of tragic. Today's Soil Association conference started to address these questions. Ann Pettifor opened calling for CITIZENS to 'occupy the food system'.

02 March 2012 | 7 Comments | Recommended by 5

The farmer on the floor

Pat Thomas: A speaker from the audience has just stood up and made an important point about farmers. She questioned organic and whether it is intrinsically healthier. An uncomfortable issue for many in the room, myself included, who believe it is. But more than that she said, “I am not an organic farmer, but I am proud of what I do”.

02 March 2012 | 6 Comments | Recommended by 9

A fair deal and joined up thinking

Ruth Mason: The panel session seemed to revolve around about the sustainability of supermarkets. Many questions from the floor raised concerns on weather producers can continue producing food without making profit, particularly in dairy.

02 March 2012 | 8 Comments | Recommended by 3

Starting where people are

Tim Young: We're in the morning discussion session of today's conference, and Julian Walker-Palin the Asda representative on the panel has been taking a bit of stick with questions from the floor. In response he made a good point, well - the views of his customers (as expressed through big surveys) are real, and they count; they can't be ignored because they're not convenient, or they don't chime with our views of how the world should be.

02 March 2012 | 23 Comments | Recommended by 8

A picture says 1000 words

Ed Dowding:

02 March 2012 | 21 Comments | Recommended by 226

Consuming or eating?

Pat Thomas: In her talk this morning Ann Pettifor talked a great deal about how we define ourselves. If we define ourselves simply as consumers is it any wonder that we have a food system that is based on consumption – of land, of chemicals of resources, and of money that could be invested in change?

02 March 2012 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 5

Trust in our instincts

Rob Haward: It’s not often you hear Churchill quoted at a Soil Association conference but I found it heartening to hear Helen Browning use his words to describe the role that science should play in the future of food and farming – ‘on tap, not on top’. Organic farmers and growers, supported ably by the Soil Association, have a proud history of trusting extinct over accepted scientific ‘wisdom’. In the pursuit of innovation based on a sound evidence base we must be wary that we don’t lose the confidence to make judgements based on common sense, instinct and sound principles.

02 March 2012 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 4

What is happening in the UK?

Ruth Mason: It has been an interesting start to the event with Helen Browning outlining the need to increase innovation and encourage more people to be eating good quality healthy diets. Within Helen’s introduction to the event she gave a short insight to the Soil Associations annual report, this shows that sales of organic products within the UK have declined by around 3.5%. This however is untrue of the rest of the world which has seen sales increase by around 8%. So why is this?

02 March 2012 | 8 Comments | Recommended by 3

We've got to get ourselves out of the garden

Pat Thomas: The annual Soil Association conference set a blistering pace this morning with an opening shot across the bow of its own occasionally enclosed world view. Chief Executive Helen Browning, in her opening remarks, said the Association needed to aim high in order to face the future. Visionary economist and Director of the economic think tank PRIME (Policy Research in Macroeconomics), Ann Pettifor took the message to heart.

02 March 2012 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 3

The first conference session sets the scene

Graham Keating: The first Conference session of the morning has clearly identified the problems we face. Anne Pettifor (New Economics Foundation), Phil Bloomer (Oxfam) and Hans Herron (Millennium Institute) have given us some clearly-delivered warning shots.

02 March 2012 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 4

The 2012 Soil Association Conference begins

Graham Keating: Well the 2012 Conference has just begun, with nearly 500 attendees in the splendid surroundings of the Royal Horticultural Halls near Victoria. Soil Association President Monty Don has just opened procedures with a warm welcome to all and an introduction, if one was needed, to Chief Executive Helen Browning.

02 March 2012 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 6

Exciting times are ahead

Helen Browning: Back in September I asked for feedback on the first iteration of our new group strategy, and I was delighted when so many people took the time to share their thoughts – through the blog comments, by email and in person. I was even more delighted that so much of the feedback was so positive – in general the vast majority of you said that our direction of travel seemed right, and this has given us real confidence in what we’re doing.

01 March 2012 | 9 Comments | Recommended by 6

Awaiting Soil Association Conference

Ruth Mason: I have been asked to blog at tomorrow's Soil Association’s conference. I thought I would begin the blog by saying I am really looking forward to the conference and being able to heard a wide range of

01 March 2012 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 1

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