New funds to inspire farms to diversify announced at Driffield Show

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A FRESH injection of cash to boost tourism and income from farming in East Yorkshire, to the tune of just over £2.1million, was announced at the region’s biggest one-day agricultural show today.

The 140th Driffield Show was used as a platform to launch new LEADER funding which will be targeted, in part, at helping farmers to diversify their businesses and even launch new products over the next six years.

The announcement came as Driffield Agricultural Society welcomed thousands of show visitors to its new Rix Pavilion for the first time - a £400,000 diversification project aided by grant funding which should safeguard the show’s future for many years to come.

David Tite, the Society’s director, said: “The pavilion has been built because we were in a situation - much like every other show - where we could have been wiped out by one wet show.

“We could lose all our reserves in one go so this is a way of increasing revenue throughout the year.

“By building the pavilion we are safeguarding our future.”

The pavilion is on the site of the showground’s former farmers’ market building and was completed earlier this year after a long-term project to raise the necessary funds.

It is available for hire for weddings, conferences, meetings and dinner dances but was used at yesterday’s show to host the local food hall, where Justin Staal, of Long Riston-based smoked fish business Staal Smokehouse, was among the exhibitors.

Mr Staal said: “It’s a very nice building and being new, everyone wants to have a look. It’s a good showcase for us.”

Members of a voluntary group tasked with encouraging rural businesses to apply for new LEADER funding - the third tranche of money available to East Yorkshire under the European Union initiative - hope fresh farm diversification projects in the area can boost the local economy, just as the new pavilion is doing.

The funding was announced by Graham Ward, chairman of the Coast, Wolds, Wetlands and Waterways Local Action Group, with the aid of visiting National Farmers’ Union vice-president, Essex farmer Guy Smith.

Mr Ward, who as part of the group will recommend projects for funding to government, said: “The LEADER programme is a vital lever in helping regenerate and renew rural communities which do not always attract the high profile and intervention strategies of the UK’s urban areas.”

Funding will be prioritised for projects which specifically: increase farm productivity; support micro, small and start-up businesses and farm diversification; support rural tourism and the provision of rural services; increase forestry productivity and support cultural and heritage activity.

The NFU’s Mr Smith, said: “It’s important that farmers recognise that they need to come to LEADER (and apply for funds) and the NFU has a key role to play in that.”

LEADER funding is made available to communities across the country as part of the Rural Development Programme for England.

The Coast, Wolds, Wetlands and Waterways funding stream is one of 11 local schemes across Yorkshire and the North East, and is one of the largest.

This summer sees applications open for funding through Local Action Groups for projects that create jobs, support business growth and provide a benefit to the rural economy.

Local groups are made up of people from the community and the public and private sector and each group decides which projects to fund in their area.

For details about the East Yorkshire scheme, email leader@eastriding.gov.uk