Great Yorkshire Show: Gooseberry and pecorino pervade an aromatic cheese fair

The aroma of Wensleydale and Brie hung sweetly in the air as Jimmy Dickinson offered a potted version of his career in yoghurt.

The second day of the Great Yorkshire Show

He could attribute to his father the distinctive synthesis of French and British cuisine that the cheese and dairy section of the Great Yorkshire Show has become.

Free samples of rhubarb liqueur added an extra piquancy to it today.

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The late Joseph Dickinson, who founded the venerable Longley Farm dairy at Holmfirth after the war, had conspired with his friend, the supermarket magnate Sir Ken Morrison, to revive the dairy classes at the Harrogate showground a couple of decades ago.

The second day of the Great Yorkshire Show

As the annual awards were presented, their work bore fruit – gooseberry, mostly – for Jimmy, who now runs the family firm.

He held aloft the supreme dairy product award for his bio gooseberry yoghurt, and took in his stride the trophies for his extra rich cream and crème fraîche with lemon and ginger. He was, after all, as he reflected, probably Morrisons’ longest-serving supplier.

The standard of entries had seldom been higher or more diverse, said one of the judges, David Hartley, managing director of the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes, who pointed to the rising popularity of Italian-style pecorino cheeses produced from sheep’s milk.

“That’s the pleasure of a show like this,” he said. “You’ve got the sheep and cattle in the pens outside and the dairy produce in here. From farm to fork in a few feet.”

The second day of the Great Yorkshire Show

Richard and Clare Holmes, who run the cheesemonger Cryer and Stott at Allerton Bywater, a business that began on a stall at Pontefract market, had reason to be grateful for the public’s new-found fondness for pecorino. Their concoction, Ewe Beauty, took the supreme award in the cheese section.

“It’s like a Wensleydale, but less crumbly,” Mr Holmes said.

A few stalls from his, another cheesemonger was selling cheddar with caramelised onion and red wine, which he had named Drunken Monk.

The awards had been a battle of the microphones between the cheese stage and Rosemary Shrager’s cooking theatre, a few yards further down the hall. Ms Shrager, seldom one to be silenced, had carried on regardless with her rabbit-based cuisine as the purveyors of gold top milk and chocolate orange ice cream were filed on to the podium.

A celebration of not just farming but the countryside at large, the show cut across age and social divides, as it always has. This year, the emphasis at many events was on encouraging the young into agriculture. At a seminar organised by Future Farmers of Yorkshire, one noted that at 58 he remained younger than the industry average and wondered aloud to the NFU president, Minette Batters, whether the organisation ought not to lend its weight to compulsory euthanasia for older workers. She laughed with him but did not answer.

As the day wore on – the hot and mostly dry weather bearing little resemblance to what had been forecast – recipients of the Nuffield Farming Scholarship gathered to discuss their experiences.

The organisation awards 20 bursaries each year to individuals researching innovations in agriculture, Sarah Pick, a farmer’s daughter from Tadcaster, wondered how Britain could compete with the 250,000-hectare cattle ranches she had seen in Brazil. The answer, she said, may lie in the mirco-herbs beloved of style-conscious chefs, into which she had seen Dutch farmers diversify.

In the sheep section, at the other end of the food chain, the accent was on even more youthful entrants to the industry. Young handlers – some barely any higher than the beasts – led their animals around the parade ring. The youngest was not yet two.

“These young people are a credit to their parents and grandparents,” said Tom Davis, one of the judges, who runs a farm on the Isle of Dogs.

“Hopefully the younger ones won’t have gone to sleep for the final judging,” noted the commentator. He seemed to be referring to the handlers, not the animals, but there was no way of knowing.

All were from family farms, and many had come from across Britain to take part. One said his mum was “a nuisance” for having put him in shows as soon as he could walk.

“Would you like a beer?” asked the commentator, sympathetically.

Each of the handlers led their sheep into a small pen for a head-to-head with a judge, as behind them, visitors ambled around the pens, petting the animals in their downtime before being preened for judging.

Eventually, one of the country’s few celebrity shepherds presented the prizes. Hannah Jackson, whose flame red hair and Instagram account are her calling cards, had spoken passionately about the need to encourage young entrants like them to the industry.

Older generations were not neglected entirely. They seemed to be in the majority at a trade stand whose banner advised that it was not necessary to know a Freemason in order to become one.