Farmer recognised for rare breeds passion

Ron Foster (right) being presented with his lifetime achievement award from David Booker of The Marsh Christian Trust.
Ron Foster (right) being presented with his lifetime achievement award from David Booker of The Marsh Christian Trust.
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One of the original members of a charity that exists to ensure the survival of native livestock breeds has been honoured for clocking up more than four decades of service.

Motivated to get involved after witnessing the disappearance of the Bilsdale Blue pig when he was younger - a breed now considered to be extinct - Ron Foster, 83, has when a keen supporter of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) since its inception 41 years ago.

The charity believes the UK’s livestock heritage needs to be conserved as a vital genetic resource for future generations and for the benefit of agriculture.

It keeps a watchlist, updated annually, which keeps track of the most at-risk breeds, with some lines of cattle so critical that there are less than 150 breeding females of their type left in the UK.

Mr Foster, who farms at Rosedale Abbey Farm near Pickering with his son David, has spent decades demonstrating rare breeds in non-competitive displays at agricultural shows across the country. He has also served as a rare breeds judge at shows on countless occasions and continues to run rare livestock on his own farm.

To recognise his “incredible passion and commitment to the RBST”, awards body, the Marsh Christian Trust, has presented Mr Foster with a lifetime achievement award.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post at Ryedale Show this week, where Mr Foster was helping out as a sheep steward - the 51st consecutive year he has volunteered as a judge or a steward at his local show - he said: “I have six rare breeds at the moment but at one stage I had 60 different breeds of poultry. I still have three breeds of poultry which are quite rare.

“It took my fancy. When I was in this particular area of Ryedale there was a breed of pig called a Bilsdale Blue. It was a great big fat sort of pig and after the Second World War it went out of fashion because everybody wanted pigs that were far leaner so no-one kept them anymore.

“I was just a farm worker at the time and I could see this happening but there was nothing I could do about it at the time.”

He said he was proud of the RBST’s record of having not lost a single breed of livestock during its existence.

Explaining the importance of the charity’s role, Mr Foster added: “They were our forefathers’ breeds and I don’t believe in letting anything disappear which might come back around.

“It isn’t just me responsible for rare breeds, it’s all these people who show and keep rare breeds and I would much rather this award was given to the whole organisation.”