Why did you decide to put the conference on?
I first read Prince Charles’ book on the Harmony principles and the philosophy behind it, five years ago. Harmony: A new way of looking at our world reminds us to make sense of the world in which we find ourselves in a new way, taking account of the influence of these fundamental laws which lie behind everything we experience as we go through our lives. These are mathematical laws which express themselves in nature – for instance, the Fibonacci sequence which informs aspects of the growth of plants; the mathematics of harmonic principles behind the musical scale; the golden ratio, which we can find everywhere and which Georgian architects used in designing the proportions of rooms, doors and windows in their buildings; the so-called ‘sacred geometry’ which enabled great Gothic cathedral builders to construct churches that influenced the state of those that visited them. I could go on.
The theme of food and farming is not very well covered in the Harmony principles, so I thought, why not organise an event which is inspired by its thinking and examines the way the Harmony principles manifest in this?
However, during the long period of human history where we’ve been ruled by reductionist and compartmentalised thinking, we’ve forgotten these principles of interconnectedness, knowledge of which could have a transformative influence on our engagement with the natural world and the meaningfulness of the way we live our lives.
The theme of food and farming is not covered in depth in the Harmony book. So I thought, why not organise an event which is inspired by harmony thinking but examines the way in which principles of harmony manifest in food and farming? That’s what we’ve tied to do for the Llandovery college conference.
What are the main aims of the conference?
To put it very simply, we hope that those who attend the event will leave better informed about the way in which Harmony principles impact the food and farming world and inspire us to take account of them in our future practices. The conference at Llandovery College will not be like the many events I have organised over the years with the Soil Association and now with the Sustainable Food Trust, where we attempted to answer questions, for instance, about good farming practice, policy, economics or science. In this conference, we will be standing in front of questions in a state of inquiry, exploring together the ways in which the laws and principles that I described above are affecting the processes of nature, in relation to the production of vital, healthy food. Think of it as a two-day journey of exploration, rather than an old style learning experience.
Who should attend?
That’s an important question! Of course we are hoping that individuals in positions of leadership and influence will come to the event, but actually we don’t want it to be exclusive in any way. It’s really aimed at people who eat – which means everyone – who have an interest in making sense of the world and exploring the deeper meaning of the world in which we live and work. There will be room for up to 400 participants and we already know that around 200 people who will be attending come from a very wide spectrum of different interests and occupations, including a significant number of participants coming from overseas. This diversity will make for rich conversations during the conference.
Who are the key speakers?
Our keynote speaker will be someone who has played a very central role in the development of Harmony thinking.
Plenary speakers include Sir John Eliot Gardiner, arguably one of the greatest living conductors and definitely the world’s leading expert on the music of Bach; Dame Ellen MacArthur, who will explore the idea of the circular economy, the focus of her eponymous Foundation, in relation to Harmony; Tony Juniper, co-author of the Harmony book is speaking on Harmony and Natural Capital; and Richard Dunne, an inspired and inspiring head teacher of Ashley CofE Primary School in Walton on Thames, who has embedded the principles of Harmony in his curriculum, will address issues of education and food.
There are a lot of parallel sessions, what themes are you exploring?
We decided to explore some of the food and farming related principles in more depth in a series of parallel sessions, many of which have notable influential expert speakers.
Themes include, harmony and the circular economy, the farm ecosystem, the integration of food production and nature conservation, the role of education, eating as an agricultural act, science and spirituality, harmony in farm architecture, relocalising food systems, the sacredness of animal life, the role of faith communities in farming, biodynamic agriculture, music and harmonious agriculture, diet and health, the carbon cycle and a fascinating exploration of systemic discord which aims to enable a better understanding of the forces which prevent principles of Harmony from manifesting in all aspects of life.
There is more information about the speakers in the programme, but suffice to say there will be some very difficult choices to make in deciding which sessions to attend! However, bearing this in mind, we will be filming all the parallel sessions and they will be available to watch on our website.
Tell me more about the field trips.
We are dedicating the last half-day of the conference to a series of field trips culminating in an end-of-conference gathering on my farm, Bwlchwernen, a 300 acre holding on a hilltop north of Lampeter where we produce 30 tonnes of cheddar-style cheese a year from the milk of our 75 Ayrshire cows. Other field trip options include a visit to Strata Florida, a ruined Cistercian abbey, and a visit to two pioneering organic horticultural holdings – one of which is conveniently close to a beautiful beach! At the end of the tours, we’ll all come back to Bwlchwernen for a BBQ and celebratory party at Holden Farm Dairy.
Photograph: Steph French
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