The European Council of Young Farmers’ (CEJA) President Jannes Maes and Vice Presidents Iris Bouwers and Tomáš Ignác Fénix were sponsored by Massey Ferguson to attend the UK’s 2018 Oxford Farming Conference. For this month’s regular CEJA column, we interview them about their impressions of the event.
MF: The theme of this year’s OFC was ‘Embracing Change’. What was your overall impression of the conference? How did you feel as CEJA President to be there and have discussions with the Emerging Leaders?
Jannes Maes: A key impression was that the Oxford Farming Conference is among the few events where the agricultural industry moves as one and in which every link in the food chain is taken into account. Even though the conference is UK-orientated, it provided a forum for international speakers. It was also a useful opportunity to meet and network with the other Emerging Leaders - young people who are passionate about agriculture and have many innovative ideas.
MF: The role of women in agriculture was discussed during the ‘Inspiring Farmers’ session with Brazilian farmer Carla Mayara Borges. From what you heard, how are women taking up key roles on farms and at a leadership level?
Iris Bouwers (CEJA Vice President): Carla was indeed inspiring because even though she has a family-farming background, she started her own business from scratch and took opportunities when they arose. It was a hard choice to make, but she acknowledged she couldn’t have done it without the people working with her on the farm and the support of her family. She spoke about the importance of women becoming more involved in leadership roles and said that in Brazil, data showed that 59.2% of women were owners or shareholders in agribusinesses. Their contributions to the sector are as valid and effective as those of men and should be encouraged, not just in Brazil but across the world.
MF: What was the attitude to innovation at the conference? Was there anything in particular that caught your eye in terms of dealing with the challenges facing the agricultural sector?
Tomáš Ignác Fénix (CEJA Vice President): I was positively impressed that the large majority of speakers was progressive and delivered provocative visions. Having a joint event involving the OFC and ORFC (Oxford Real Farming Conference) was a good opportunity to share experiences. I would very much appreciate to share more of these among ourselves because we could still learn a lot from each other.
The Oxford Union debate on the future of meat consumption was kind of a sensation for me because of the gentle way of arguing on a controversial and unpopular topic. I sensed the responsibility of ensuring a long-term future that will deal with climate change, environmental protection, animal well-being and consumer habits. This was interestingly presented by James Wong and Eve Turow Paul. Last but not least, I was impressed by the presentation of a path for a ‘peace plan’ between the ‘environmentalists’ party’, the ‘scientists’ party’ and the ‘farmers’ party’ in a very refreshing speech by Mark Lynas.
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