Farmers celebrate British wine production on the eve of Oxford conferences

Farmers raised a glass to British wine production on the eve of the Oxford conferences in a debate with Innovative Farmers that brought people from both conferences together.

The Great Wine Debate – a fringe event open to people attending both the Oxford Farming Conference and Oxford Real Farming Conference – saw more than 120 guests enjoy and discuss wine samples with a panel of UK wine producers while learning more about their production methods and business models.

The free debate, in its fourth year, was run by Innovative Farmers, the not-for-profit network with free membership that brings farmers, growers and researchers together to find out about and take part in farm-based trials called field labs.

The event, which previously debated beer, cider and cheese, aims to bring all types of producers together to talk about the benefits of farmer innovation and the four panellists discussed how the actions they take on farm affect the finished product.

Chaired by Anna Hill, presenter of BBC Radio Four’s Farming Today, the debate saw the wine producers lead discussions with the floor on different methods for tackling today’s farming challenges, including changing weather patterns, encouraging people to buy local, and fighting weeds and mildew while protecting nature.

Helen Aldis, Innovative Farmers Development Manager, said: “We would like to thank everyone who took part in the Great Wine Debate, it was brilliant to see so much enthusiasm for British wine and for British farming in its many forms. The event was an enjoyable way for people from both conferences to experience the ethos of Innovative Farmers in encouraging farmers from a diverse range of systems to share knowledge on the different challenges they face and sustainable solutions.”

Speaking at the event, panellist Will Davenport of Davenport Vineyards said: “My parents farm apples and actually a lot of innovation that comes out of fruit farming can be very useful for viticulture, so it’s really key to have good communication between all different types of growers. There’s a lot of common ground among all farmers and shared knowledge is really important.”

The panel also included Cameron Roucher, of Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex; Emma Lundie, of Forty Hall Vineyards in north London; and Robb Merchant of White Castle Vineyard in Abergavenny, Wales.

To hear more insight from the panellists, listen back to yesterday’s episode of Farming Today on BBC Radio Four.

An information stand on Innovative Farmers will be at Oxford Real Farming Conference for the duration of the event, where farmers can find out about previous, ongoing or future field labs and sign up to the network as well as hear the outcomes of trials in a range of sessions throughout the two days.

Any farmer or researcher can join the Innovative Farmers network for free at, where information and results on field labs is shared open source.

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