Making farming fit for the future
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Farmers from across Hampshire headed to the largest event of its kind in the county to discuss the current issues facing farming and rural communities, including the support and opportunities available for rural businesses to boost economic success.
Held at Sparsholt College on 26 June, the annual Hampshire Farming Conference and Rural Forum attracted more than 90 delegates with speakers including Lord Selborne, a recognised expert in agriculture and business and Nick Stenning, chief executive of Vitacress, one of the country's leading growers, packers and distributors of high quality salads. Hampshire County Council Chairman Cllr Andrew Joy also attended the event, which was supported by Carter Jonas.
Range of rural issues highlighted
Organised by the County Council, the event highlighted a range of rural issues - from faster broadband and affordable housing to tourism and new developments in animal health. This year the usual half day programme was extended to include the Hampshire Rural Forum conference. Delegates heard about the new Wessex Rural and Farming Network - one of only 17 nationally - which was announced by DEFRA in April this year. The WRFN is a regional network connecting government directly with those representing farming and rural interests, to identify and feed back issues and concerns to ensure that government policies are rural-friendly.
Food and farming 'big business'
Councillor Ray Ellis, Executive Member for Economic and Rural Affairs, who opened the conference said:
"We are strong supporters of farming and the rural community and the County Council itself owns 64 tenant farms. Much of Hampshire is rural so it makes sense for us to ensure that farming and rural communities thrive and generate employment and business opportunities.
"Food and farming are big business, with farmers nationally bucking the downward economic trend by contributing more than £8 billion to the UK economy as well as employing 3.5 million people. Food and drink is the fourth largest exporting sector and farming supports around 17,000 jobs in Hampshire.
8th Farming conference
"This is the eighth Hampshire farming conference and we recognise that a healthy farming sector is essential for a thriving rural economy. Hampshire's attractiveness as a place to live and work is mainly due to its outstanding landscape and the work of a strong framing sector. That is why we are committed to supporting food and farming as well as events such as the Hampshire Food Festival, which takes place throughout July.
"Locally produced food and drink is in great demand both here and abroad. We are working with our partners to make sure that rural areas have the same opportunities as elsewhere and can compete on equal terms for business and jobs. The conference is a great opportunity for farmers and those in related industries to share their success stories, learn about new initiatives and network with contacts."