THE huge contribution farming makes to the local economy was highlighted at Hampshire’s biggest rural conference.
More than 90 delegates met at the annual Hampshire Farming Conference and Rural Forum.
Speakers at the event at Sparsholt College, near Winchester, included Lord Selborne, an expert in agriculture and business, as well as Nick Stenning, chief executive of Vitacress, one of the country’s leading growers, packers and distributors of salads.
Councillor Ray Ellis, who is in charge of economy and rural affairs at Hampshire County Council and who opened the conference, said: ‘We are strong supporters of farming and the rural community and the county council itself owns 64 tenant farms.
‘Much of Hampshire is rural so it makes sense for us to ensure that farming and rural communities thrive and generate employment and business opportunities.
‘Food and farming are big business, with farmers nationally bucking the downward economic trend by contributing more than £8bn to the UK economy as well as employing 3.5m people.
‘Food and drink is the fourth largest exporting sector and farming supports around 17,000 jobs in Hampshire.’
The event highlighted a range of rural issues – from the need for faster broadband and affordable housing, to tourism and new developments in animal health.
It was the eighth time the conference has been held.