Our view of the ORC conference

Date Published: 08/01/2009

As promised yesterday, here’s a brief report on OF&Gs’ experience of the Organic Research Centre Conference, courtesy of our Development Officer, Steven Jacobs:

The snow lay all around at Harper Adams for the start of the Organic Research Centre conference that took place 6th & 7th January, 2009.

I was told by the organisers that 180 people were in attendance. Quite a crowd and of some long established ‘organic’ luminaries. There was some level of absence due to ill health and there were certain personalities that were sorely missed. However this year it was a welcome return to good health for Lawrence Woodward from Elm Farm and with, amongst others, the participation of our own CEO this year, lively debate was enjoined.

The workshops brought us the chance to share experience and experiences, swapping stories and creating new avenues of exploration. One very interesting idea was to form an organic farming union; a place where producers can support each other, discuss standards and strategies and to collect their thoughts to give, as Lawrence called it, ‘one voice’.

Talking of which it was formally announced that Nic Lampkin, recently of Organic Centre Wales, is taking on the role of Executive Director at the Organic Research Centre. Nic is someone who has respect throughout the organic community for his clear thinking, long experience and logical approach to organic regulation and all that goes with it and I know I am not alone in expressing happiness and even a sense of relief at his appointment.

Back at the conference we were treated to some very good organic and local food prepared and served very well by the college caterers and we were happy to quaff the organic ale on sale at the college bar, in the interests of supporting the industry and ensuring a good flow of conversation of course. I’m sure you understand.

One contentious issue was over the certification of products some deemed not fit to carry the organic seal, including some types of convenience food. My feeling is that it is better to have a market place where organic alternatives are available if they comply with the regulation as it gives producers somewhere to put their goods and customers some organic food where they would otherwise not consume it. After all it is not, for instance, permissible to use hydrogenated fat in organic food processing and if by reaching a wider audience you are able to stimulate the organic conversion of more acreage then this must, surely, be a good thing.

Finally I must praise Catherine Phillips, of Organic Inform, for organising the event so well and maintaining her calm for so long. Thank you Catherine – a good job well done.

It was then a tired but stimulated bunch that said their farewells at the conference close. Opinions had been aired including those of a positive, constructive and thought provoking nature. So under now wet conditions we left to continue the thaw progressing through the organic world where people come together not to always agree but to always share and to always have some level of agreement.

We are still a minority group but we are a rather vocal lot with much to say. Although, I am minded to recall an old lecturer of mine: “You have two ears and one mouth please use them proportionately”.