Soil Association annual conference 2014

Soil Association Annual Conference 2014

Transforming the way we eat, farm and care for the natural world

08-09 October, STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway, Swindon

Book your place

Join us for a fantastic two day conference to debate some of the biggest issues of the day facing our food and farming systems. Chaired by Farming Today’s Charlotte Smith the conference will cover the politics of pollinators; a good life for our farmed animals; our broken food system and what politicians intend to do about it in the run up to the election; the Deputy Chief Medical Officer on the worldwide antibiotics crisis; and excitingly the first chance to hear and quiz Professor Carlo Leifert on the recent organic nutritional research. We’ll also be asking delegates to decide this year’s best innovators in farming and growing. And as ever the conference is a chance to meet old friends and make new ones at our now famous organic supper, drinks and ceilidh (this year with our Organic Awards presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli).

The conference coincides with the Soil Association AGM at the end of day 1, so is a great chance to catch up with what the Soil Association has been up to, as well as enjoy the wide range of exciting speakers. More than that though this is a great chance for all of us in the organic movement – producers, businesses, policymakers, campaigners, and public members, and anyone with an interest in changing our food system for the better – to get together and celebrate our successes and our common goals. We hope to see as many of you as possible.

The conference will take place on 8 and 9 October at STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway, Fire Fly Avenue, Swindon SN2 2EY.

Book your place

Wednesday 8 October

Timings: 9.30am registration, 10.15am start, sessions finish at 6.15pm – to be followed immediately by our drinks reception, producer supper and evening entertainment until 11.30pm.

Session 1 – Keep Britain Buzzing: the latest science, politics and action to help save our pollinators

The decline of pollinators and the causes for this have recently been a hot topic of debate and the Soil Association has been campaigning hard. In this session, Professor Dave Goulson, one of the leading experts in the field will outline the latest science and politics – with a panel of people directly involved in field outlining action and practical approaches to supporting bees and other pollinators. As Dave Goulson outlines in his recent book: “Perhaps if we learn to save the bee today we can save the world tomorrow?”

Confirmed speaker:
Professor Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology, University of Sussex

Session 2 – Stopping the superbugs: how farming can help keep antibiotics working

The rise of infections resistant to antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most serious health problems. The threat, as David Cameron has put it, is that "we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine". While much of the problem stems from human medicine, farming also over uses antibiotics and will suffer if they are lost. In this session the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor John Watson sets out the scale of the challenge and the responsibilities of farming – and Cóilín Nunan explains why changes are needed to stop their over-use in farming. A farmer involved in the Soil Association's dairy 'field lab' will describe how crucial antibiotics can be to animal health and welfare, and how even organic farmers can take steps to reduce their use.

Confirmed speakers:
Professor John Watson, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
Cóilín Nunan, expert advisor to the Soil Association and Alliance to Save our Antibiotics

Session 3 – Farming for health: does the way we produce food affect its nutritional value?

Until now, it has been widely assumed that how we farm has no impact on the nutritional value of the food we eat. Professor Carlo Leifert will challenge that assumption in presenting the findings of the landmark Newcastle University-led study into the nutritional composition of organic and non-organic fruit, vegetables and cereals, which was published in July in the British Journal of Nutrition. An expert panel will then consider the implications of these findings for public health and public sector food procurement.

Confirmed speaker:
Carlo Leifert, Professor for Ecological Agriculture, Newcastle University


Jo Lewis, Head of Policy (Food and Health), Soil Association
Professor Gabriel Scally, University of the West of England (UWE)

Session 4 – Forestry and the AGM

How forests can protect indigenous communities.  The forestry session will also include the Soil Association Annual General Meeting and an opportunity to find out about the Soil Association’s campaigning year with Helen Browning, Chief Executive.

A celebration of the best of organic – 2 course producer supper, our Organic Awards ceremony and (organic?!) dancing

Join us for an informal drinks reception followed by a 2-course sit down meal. The menu will be designed by a celebrity chef and the ingredients sourced organically from our very own licensees. The winners of our Organic Awards 2014 will be announced after supper and presented this year by Hardeep Singh Kohli – Writer, Broadcaster and organic enthusiast. The evening's entertainment of music and dancing will be brought to us by Licence to Ceilidh.

Thursday 9 October

Timings: 9.30am registration, 10.00am start, 4.30pm finish

Soil Association Innovation Awards 2014

After the success of the Innovation Awards at our 2013 conference, the 2014 awards celebrate pioneering ideas in farming and growing across the UK that benefit the environment, health or animal welfare. Conference delegates will hear two minute ‘dragons den style’ pitches from our shortlisted finalists – and debate and vote for their favourite innovator in two interactive sessions.

If you are interested in entering the awards, please see

Session 5 – How can we ensure a good life for all farm animals?

The farming industry insists that welfare is improving on farms across the UK, and now routinely measures the welfare of dairy cows, pigs and free range hens. But the measures check mainly for problems like lameness or feather loss. Is that good enough, or we have a responsibility to give animals a positive life experience? What’s the best way to help this happen?’

Session 6 – Election 2015: how could our future government fix our broken food system?

The government has far more influence than we realise when it comes to deciding what we eat. The just published Government Plan for Public Procurement states that public money spent on food for catering in the UK comes to a staggering £2.4bn per year. The ‘Square Meal’ report, also just published, is a collaboration of 10 NGOs challenging future. governments to fix our broken food system. Peter Bonfield, author of The Plan for Public Procurement, Mike Clarke, CEO of the RSPB and Frank Strang of Scotland’s ‘Good Food Nation’ report, will talk through the challenges and vision around our food system – and we invite delegates to join us to debate these important issues and be part of a conversation that affects us all.

Confirmed speakers:
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Peter Bonfield, Author of The Plan for Public Procurement
Frank Strang, Head of Food, Drink and Rural Communities Division, The Scottish Government

Peter Melchett, Policy Director, Soil Association
Laura Stewart, Director of Soil Association Scotland

If you have any enquiries about the conference, please contact the Events Team on or 0117 314 5155.

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