Tickets for the UK’s first Ethical Farming Conference have opened for booking. The conference takes place on Thursday 16th May in south west Scotland and will explore models of transferable, scalable and sustainable ethical food production.  The conference is being co-organised by four Scottish farms who all lead on an ethical proposition – Mossgiel Farm, Peelham Farm, Rainton Farm and Whitmuir Organic. A bursary scheme offering free of charge attendance for young researchers and new entrant farmers has also opened for application, with ten bursaries available.

The conference venue is Rainton Farm, home of The Ethical Dairy, the largest cow with calf dairy farm in Europe.  Plans for the conference were revealed in the autumn after seed-funding for the event was provided by supporters of The Ethical Dairy’s successful crowdfunding campaign. Those pledges by members of the public were subsequently match funded by the Scottish Government’s Regional Food Fund.

The conference programme will comprise four thematic sessions based broadly around the organising farms’ core ‘ethical’ pillars, described as fair work for people, high welfare for livestock, environmentally regenerative closed-loop production and sustainable circular economies.

The conference sessions are titled: Pasture Management, Soil, Organic Carbon & Biodiversity; Nutrition & Social Impact; Animal Welfare and Public Goods & the Circular Economy.  There will also be tours of Rainton Farm with an explanation of their cow with calf system, informal lunchtime sessions and a lunch that showcases sustainably produced food.

Speakers include Texan regenerative farmers Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark, nutritionist Dr Zoë Harcombe, entrepreneur Nick Barnard of Rude Health, Mary Clear founder of Incredible Edible, Patrick Holden of Sustainable Food Trust, Ruth Layton of sustainability consultancy FAI Farms, Dr Angela Wright of Compassion in World Farming and Pasture For Life Association, Prof. Sarah Skerratt, Prof. Davy McCracken,  Prof. Christine Watson and Prof. Francoise Wemelsfelder all of SRUC, Jonnie Hall of NFUS and Dr Kathryn Ellis of Glasgow Vet School.

Co-organiser Denise Walton of Peelham Farm said:

“This conference is a very exciting opportunity to bring together innovators and leaders in ethical farming and food production to share knowledge, inclusive science application and farmer and practitioner experience.  In particular we want to explore the transferability of sustainable and ethical farming systems, to challenge the widespread idea that regenerative farming can only be done on a small scale. 

“Our industry needs to change. It is through collaboration that we will find ways to make the changes needed. Members of the public are increasingly demanding that farming finds a way to deliver high quality food with positive environmental impact alongside excellence in land-management, animal care and environmental stewardship. It is the experience of all four of the farms organising this conference that those consumer demands can be delivered by adopting an ethical approach to farming, and it is our firm belief that this approach is transferable, is scalable and is sustainable.” 

David Finlay, the farmer behind The Ethical Dairy, commented:

“This conference was a spur of the moment idea during our crowdfunder with the goal of sharing our experience of high welfare, regenerative farming.  That spur of the moment idea has become something much more significant, and we are delighted to have the support of other farmers, the Scottish Government and industry organisations who have all contributed to the development of this event.

“If we are to address the complex challenges our industry faces then we need to work together. Ethically produced food is an important emerging market and it is past time that the farming industry, particularly the livestock farming sector, collaborate to meaningfully address the concerns that members of the public have about the intensification of our industry. We hope this conference is the start of our industry starting to take seriously the potential of ecological and regenerative farming.”

Bryce Cunningham of Mossgiel Farm was recently named as one of four Young Farmer Climate Change Champions by the Scottish Government to champion a cultural and behavioural shift towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming in Scotland. Mossgiel has become the first single use plastic free organic dairy in the UK.

Bryce commented:

“People are becoming much more interested in where their food comes from and what it is packaged in, and as an industry we have a responsibility to respond to their concerns.  Farming with a focus on environmental sustainability, waste reduction and high animal welfare is simply good business.  I am keen to share my experience with farmers considering following a sustainable, ethical model, and I’m looking forward to hearing from other farmers across the UK about what works well for them.”

Programme details and booking information is available on the conference website: www.ethicalfarming.org