A new age of organic Golden Promise?

Rob Haward - 08 February 2011

Rob Haward: It was January 1999 when I had my first Soil Association conference experience. It was a little like being initiated in to a strange but compelling cult –‘Golden Promise’ fuelled revelry* shared with a colourful array of characters, bound by a passion for a better way to care for the land and produce our food.   Twelve years on, as I contemplate 2 days in Manchester, much has changed.

The organic movement of today is a more mature and arguably mellow entity. Soil Association conferences don’t tend to stir up quite the same extremes of emotion they once did. The Manchester conference is unlikely to deliver tearful speeches or uncontrollable mass audience participation if particular nerves are struck But what has been lost in passion (and entertainment) within the organic movement has been gained in credibility and relevance. Emotional arguments have become scientific ones and the big issues that galvanise us have just got bigger. Over a decade ago our focus was GMs, ridiculously excessive use of pesticides, unacceptable standards of animal welfare and grossly outdated agricultural policies. Today we have to throw the foreboding clouds, of climate change, population growth and energy security in to the mix.

What do I hope that the Soil Association conference will deliver? Greater credibility and relevance don’t necessarily lead to mass change. What will be compelling about the discussions in Manchester will be how decision makers from outside the organic core see organic food and farming in the future. Are we becoming regarded as the guiding light or are we destined to be banished to the periphery making a few useful contributions that help the ‘big boys’ do things slightly better? And in amongst the intensity of debate and the grappling of the big issues I also hope we will enjoy more than just a glimmer of the passion and fun that ignited conferences of the past.

*In case you were wondering, ‘Golden Promise’ was the favoured organic beer of the time – not a ‘Bruce Parry’ style hallucinogen administered to all new ‘entrants’ into the organic movement. Although excessive consumption could have similar effects.

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Gloria Charles
08 February 2011 16:56

One would hope that with greater credibility comes greater passion.

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