Great Yorkshire Show returns to Harrogate at 'critical' time for British farming

It is the blockbuster event of the year for the county’s farming community, providing a platform like no other to give Yorkshire’s rural communities a voice throughout its 161-year history.

Great Yorkshire Show director Charles Mills with TV presenters Anita Rani and Jules Hudson with a Beef Shorthorn belonging to Tracy Severn from Halifax at the Great Yorkshire Showground. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

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Anita Rani reacts with a Longhorn belonging to James Emsley and Michael Cleasby from Scarborough. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

The Great Yorkshire Show returns to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Harrogate showground today for the first of three days celebrating the best of food, farming and the countryside, and according to show director Charles Mills, this year’s instalment comes at a crucial moment.

“I do think it’s a critical time for British farming. We are no further ahead than we were at this point last year,” said Mr Mills of ongoing uncertainty being caused by the unresolved political situation.

The show director, who farms near York, spoke passionately about the damage this was inflicting on his industry when he met the-then Farming Minister George Eustice at last year’s show.

“I asked Mr Eustice at the time, we wanted some answers and we have none. Agriculture is a long-term industry, short-term measures aren’t good enough.”

Rachel Ellis, 17, from Cawthorne near Barnsley, prepares Yasmin for the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

A lack of clarity about farming’s future will not undermine what promises to be another grand spectacle at the showground this week, with the 250-acre site looking in “absolutely beautiful” condition, he said.

“The animals that you have got here are the best quality and quality is always going to be something that we should aim for, and so you come to the show to see the top end of those particular breeds of livestock.

“I’m quite sure that the red meat industry will survive but we’ve got to continue to strive to produce that top end and we have got those very animals right here.”

As show director, Mr Mills, who says the role remains a “huge honour”, has continually spoken about the importance of encouraging the next generation of farmers, and he is buoyed by their involvement in this week’s show.

“There’s a lot more young people exhibiting their cattle and being involved in showing and that’s exactly where I’d like to see this show, this society, and industry moving forward. It will be young people that drive this industry forward.”

As reported in The Yorkshire Post, the show will be documented by a television crew for a dedicated two-part highlights series for the first time. The Channel 5 programme, Today at The Great Yorkshire Show will be broadcast at 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday, starring Countryfile’s Anita Rani, from Bradford, and Jules Hudson as hosts.

Ms Rani said she believes the show, and the new series, has broad appeal.

“I think people who live in urban areas are just as curious and more than ever about what’s going on in the rural environment.”

Mr Hudson described the Great Yorkshire Show as “a fantastic cocktail of the best of rural life” and urged people to visit over its three days.