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Positively organic

Date Published: 17/07/2015

The message was resoundingly positive for organic farmers and growers at this year’s National Organic Combinable Crops conference, the largest on-farm event in the sector’s calendar.

Not only are consumers showing more interest in buying organic food, but speakers revealed there are more business opportunities for people in the sector that ever before.

It was a great day with around 200 delegates representing all stages of the supply chain gathered at Shimpling Park Farm in Suffolk (7 July) to hear that the outlook for the industry was strong as shoppers look to the sector to provide them with increasing amounts of quality food.

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During a presentation session chaired by BBC Farming Today and Countryfile presenter Charlotte Smith, Kantar WorldPanel’s Chris Cowan shared the latest market data to explain that there are fresh opportunities for the organic sector to meet consumer demands for quality, taste and choice.

Meanwhile Christopher Stopes from organic group IFOAM EU said there was a positive climate for organic food across Europe and that stakeholders in member states had the will from industry right through to policy makers to help the sector succeed.

These talks were just two of the set of fascinating presentations at NOCC – which is now in its eighth year – from retail and industry experts on how the sector is performing.

Delegates ranging from top organic producers to retailers, processors and non-organic farmers and government officials also heard from academics and scientists who gave them tips and advice on soil maintenance and carbon management.

Thankfully despite some rather dark clouds building during the morning the rain held off as the skies cleared and the sun returned in time for the annual farm walk. This year visitors were given an insight into host farmer John Pawsey’s large-scale organic enterprise. They were able to look at the soils, the sheep and to examine the extensive trials in legumes, cereals and novel crops including quinoa.

The Organic Research Centre also chose the event to officially launch its ORC Wakelyns Population wheat, with grain from the crop milled and baked locally for the conference’s breakfast and lunch.

The wheat is part of an evolutionary breeding programme designed to produce a diverse population of wheat which can adapt to the current unpredictable environments. Until now it has been illegal to market such a population because it was deemed not to comply with EU law, but ORC has convinced officials that it does fit a set of acceptable criteria and should be evaluated through test marketing.

Delegates at NOCC also dined on organic pork, generously provided by our friends at Dalehead as part of its relationship with Waitrose and Organic Arable.

The link-up between the three companies is part of a shorter supply chain project, which has been running successfully for some years to enable organic farmers to have long-term contracts and market pricing and giving retailers and their customers consistent access to quality British food.

We would very much like to thank all of those who supported us in creating such a memorable day, particularly our hosts Alice and John Pawsey, who were fantastic. We look forward to welcoming you to next year’s event, which will be hosted by Richard Morris at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

If you missed the event or want to catch-up on any of the presentations from the day, you can download the speakers’ presentation slides in pdf format below. For a selection of photographs please go to our Flickr page.