This year, the annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC) took place from January 4-6, gathering partners in the UK and internationally to discuss the importance of transforming food and farming systems in an effort to address the negative effects of climate change and improve people’s livelihood. From 2021 – 2022, ORFC was entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year has returned to in-person in Oxford with sessions also available online.
During the opening plenary, Alice Cunningham, Executive Director of International Affairs of Shumei International, introduced the Shumei Taiko Ensemble who displayed a powerful performance which called to the “spirits of nature.” In Japan, Taiko is traditionally offered as a prayer for harmony and based on the elements of nature including water, winder, rain, and thunder. Shumei Natural Agriculture farmers consider Taiko to be a “spiritual practice” that connects us to nature.
Shumei International organized a session on the importance of seed-saving. The session was moderated by Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association, along with key-note speaker, K. Greene, Co-Founder of Hudson Valley Seed Company, and session panelists, Alice from Shumei International, Shinya Imahashi, Natural Agriculture farmer and Manager of the Shumei Natural Agriculture Yatesbury Farm, and Melanie Knight, Co-leader of Griffin Growers.
The session explored the importance of saving, exchanging and cultivating heirloom and open-pollinated seeds as a means to empower farmers, protect biodiversity, strengthen climate change resiliency and address food system fragility.
Based on their own experiences, the panelists explored how seed-saving has strengthened their farming and gardening practices, while promoting healthy diets and cuisine by preserving a wide range of heirloom varieties. Ultimately, they encourage other farmers to implement this practice into their own techniques in hopes of a fruitful future for Mother Earth and the people in it.
“Seeds are the source of life, the foundation of life. We have a responsibility to protect them.” – Alice Cunningham