There is still time to register for this year’s South of England Agricultural Society’s Farming Conference on Wednesday 14 November at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex. Don’t miss your spot at this popular event, where ‘The Great Agricultural Debate’ will be launched to an audience of over 250 farmers, landowners and agriculturalists from across the region.

Bravely taking a fresh ‘Question Time’ approach, the 2018 South of England Farming Conference will open up the debate to the audience floor, asking them to set the agenda to put forward their questions on the matters concerning them. Together with expert advice from leading lights in British agriculture, the aim is to navigate through the plethora of issues currently facing the rural industry.

“We are at a unique moment in history as the forces of politics, economics, technology and society converge to create a maelstrom of challenges and new opportunities for the food and agricultural industries in the coming years,” said Duncan Rawson, a Nuffield Scholar sponsored by the Society and this year’s Conference Organiser.

“We are expecting the discussions to cover diverse factors such as Brexit, farm policy, legislation, trade, technological innovation, traceability, veganism, soil degradation, activists, climate change, obesity, health, the environment. All issues that will converge to affect the industry in ways that we haven’t experienced for a generation,” he continued.

“Moreover, we need to deal with these challenges whilst also meeting the needs of a growing world population, as critical resources such as water, energy and land become increasingly scarce. We hope The Great Agricultural Debate will offer an excellent opportunity to bring these crucial questions to the table.”

The Society is absolutely delighted to welcome back BBC presenter, Charlotte Smith to chair the impressive panel of industry leaders, all of whom will come armed with hard hats, ready to help untangle the myriad of issues and give their views on the challenges ahead.

Nuffield Scholar and Sussex dairy farmer, Joe Delves will bring his expert knowledge on successful dairy farming following his studies and travels from around the world. He will be joined by the highly renowned agri-food policy and business consultant, Séan Rickard alongside Deputy President of the NFU, Guy Smith who farms a mixed and diversified family farm in East Sussex. Completing the panel will be Stuart Thomson, who heads up the European Food and Farming Partnerships’ food supply chain development work with over 20 years’ of experience in the industry.

Now in its third year, the popular Technical Forum will take place before the main Conference and invites active and progressive farmers and students to come and learn about specific subjects. This year the title for the forum is ‘Breaking the Mould – Building a Business in a New Era’.

“The UK is sitting on the edge of a new agricultural revolution. It is going to be bumpy ride and one that is fraught with challenges, but also one teaming with opportunities for those who are willing to take chances, to innovate, to break the mould and do things differently. Agriculture has a great future, and we hope that the Forum is able to inspire people to get out there and grab the opportunities,” said Duncan Rawson.

The Technical Forum brings together a number of speakers who have been there and done it. They include: experienced, diverse, sheep farming, wife and husband team, Laura and Andy Hodgkins; Cambridgeshire farmer and agricultural contracting businessman, Matt Redman; Ian Webb, who leads the South East Agriculture business for Lloyds SME Banking and will offer his financial expertise, highlighting the character traits of successful businesses; and finally Séan Rickard will provide his views on Brexit and the opportunities and challenges this will present to farmers in a post-Brexit era. Third generation farmer from East Sussex, Chris Appleton, will chair the session.

The South of England Agricultural Society will also be urging farmers to put forward their young talent for entry into the Young Sussex Farmer of the Year category in the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2019, which it is proud to sponsor. Entry forms are online at

Sitting in the middle of 150 acres, the South of England Showground is the ideal venue to host the Farming Conference, in partnership with South East Farmer magazine and sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter, Complete Land Management (CLM), Lloyds Bank, Richard Place Dobson LLP and South East Business Systems Ltd.

The Technical Forum, which has been allocated five Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points this year, starts at 3.30pm and refreshments will be available from 6pm ahead of the Great Debate at 7pm.

The Farming Conference and Technical Forum are FREE to attend, but you will need to register for both on the farming conference page at under ‘Professional Development’