Farm of the Week: Fairburn family of Rievaulx score notable Ryedale Show double

They’re back on the ropes again today, as they will have been since Wednesday and will continue to be until Monday, but this is a different kind of pressure to when Muhammad Ali appeared so languid against them in his heavyweight title bouts.

Farmers Frederick Fairburn, of Harriet Air Farm, Rievaulx, North Yorkshire, is president of Ryedale Show, Frederick's wife Jane is joint-president and his son Richard is chairman of Ryedale Show. Picture by James Hardisty.

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Farmers Frederick Fairburn, of Harriet Air Farm, Rievaulx, North Yorkshire, is president of Ryedale Show and his son Richard is chairman of Ryedale Show, pictured checking one of their fields of wheat. Picture by James Hardisty.

Father and son, Frederick and Richard Fairburn of Harriet Air Farm, near Rievaulx spend every evening the week prior to the wonderful Ryedale Show cordoning areas such as the main ring and show rings in order that their favourite show can take place with the minimum of fuss each year at Welburn near Kirkbymoorside, home of the Shaw family.

Ryedale Show attracts a crowd of around 15,000 and has one of the most attractive show sites with the trade stands on one level and a gentle slope, used for car parking and an ideal viewing gallery, that gives way to the livestock and equestrian classes.

The Fairburn family has been involved with the show in some way since Frederick’s parents moved to the North York Moors from the Northallerton area in 1956. His father Sydney showed pigs and was show president in 1984. This year Frederick and Richard score a notable double with Frederick and wife Jane as co-presidents and Richard as show chairman.

When I met Frederick’s sister Dorothy, regional director of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA), at Driffield Show the day prior to visiting Harriet Air, she commented it may be a first for father and son to hold both positions at the same time. Indeed, even unprecedented that husband, wife and son should hold both offices in the same year, but neither is true as the Curtis family managed the same feat last year!

Pictured (left to right), Richard, and his wife Catherine, with their children Ebony, seven, and Oliver, three, and parents Jane and Frederick Fairburn. Picture by James Hardisty.

“Jane would say I’m biased,” says Frederick. “But I believe we have the best showfield there is and you won’t see a better show of sheep at a one day show anywhere in the country. We do well with cattle too and it is a tremendous show of horses. It’s a proper country show.

“My father was involved when we first came up here in the 1950s. Riding my pony in the working hunter pony classes was my first exploit in showing when Ryedale Show was held at Duncombe Park in Helmsley. In those days the show would alternate between Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside and Pickering in a three-year cycle before it settled at Welburn.

"The first time I showed cattle was when I took a Charolais X heifer in 1968 and we won the BOCM plaque for best local calf. We’ve shown cattle ever since and generally had our share of prizes although we’ve never won the commercial championship, but that’s not why we show.

"We take our own homebred cattle, it’s our local show and one we all love. I began helping out our then chief beef steward Peter Boocock. When he sadly passed away I took over from him and continued showing.”

Long show history

Richard has never missed a show from being born. He’s shown everything from pet lambs to calves, ridden in gymkhanas and led the family’s cattle entries. Today he’s the senior partner in the farm partnership with his parents. His chairmanship of the show is something new.

“Helping set up the show every year has been my main contribution, particularly the ropes. I’m not technically a steward, but I’m moving into some bigger boots this year to be beef steward with mum and dad’s president’s duties.

“I’ve chaired one meeting since taking up the chairman’s role. It’s a bit like being back to the days when I was chairman of Helmsley Young Farmers Club and district chairman for Ryedale YFC.”

Farm in profile

Harriet Air Farm runs to 570 acres next to the Helmsley and Stokesley road and is a mixed farming enterprise. The Fairburns have a herd of 150 suckler cows that generally have native breeds such as Hereford and Aberdeen Angus within them put to a Belgian Blue or Blonde d’Aquitaine bull, and they currently have a Beef Shorthorn bull also running with the herd.

They have 700 breeding ewes made up of Mules, Suffolk X and Texel X put to Texel, Suffolk and Charollais tups. Arable acreage is this year 35 acres of winter wheat; 35 of winter barley; 90 acres of spring malting barley Propino; and 18 acres of fodder beet.

“We finish everything on farm,” says Richard. “Our bull calves and heifers are predominantly sold through Northallerton livestock market at 14-16 months. We market our lambs and ewes through the Seven Hills Farmers marketing co-operative that now has 40 farmers producing stock numbering 30,000 ewes and lambs for all year-round collection.

“It has been a great success and we are providing around 1000 of that number. Thirsk livestock market provides a collection centre as does Richard Machin at Brandsby.”

Lambing takes place in April with a healthy prolificacy of around 1.8 lambs per ewe, which brings about a crop just short of 1,200 per year all going at around 42-43 kilos liveweight.

“We’re looking for them to give around 19.5-20 kilos deadweight. We watch carefully that nothing gets over fat. Our winter barley and fodder beet is all for feed, but we do supply spring barley on contract for maltsters if we get the right sample.”

Show excitement

Frederick and Jane are looking forward to their day as joint-president. They are both delighted their daughter Alison, who is a vet in Kent, will be coming up for the day next Tuesday and the next generation at Harriet Air is very much involved with the show. Richard and his wife Catherine’s two children Ebony, seven, and Oliver, three, will each have a pet lamb to show.

“We are passionate about Ryedale,” says Frederick. “The Ryedale & Pickering Lyth Agricultural Society that runs the show donates to charities and gives to causes that educate about the countryside.”

Ryedale Show takes place at Welburn Park near Kirkbymoorside on Tuesday, July 30.