Ben Barnett: 5 lessons from day one of the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate

Crowds on day one of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Crowds on day one of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Tony Johnson.

A jam-packed first day of the 161st Great Yorkshire Show provided plenty of highlights as thousands of visitors joined exhibitors from across the county and beyond.

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

Action in the sheep rings at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Action in the sheep rings at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Fifteen glorious photos from the first day of the Great Yorkshire Show 2019

Great Yorkshire Show: Drizzle doesn’t deter crowd for long

Here's five things I learned today as the curtain was raised on another three days of celebration of all things food, farming and the countryside.

Environment

Picture by James Hardisty.

Picture by James Hardisty.

The tone struck by agricultural leaders was particularly focused on farming’s environmental role, whether it was about climate change and the potential for climate breakdown in just 11 years’ time.

At the top of the farming industry at the very least, there is a serious shift in conversation and this, it seems, is borne out of the sector’s awareness that it has to publicly, and practically on the land, be engaging with the topics that reasonate so strongly with the public.

In doing so, the industry, so reliant on financial support because of poor market returns and an endemic undervaluing of food on a society-wide scale, will create a strong platform to make the case for continued taxpayer support as policy is jettisoned back to Whitehall from Brussels.

Uncertainty

There are no two ways about it, the Great Yorkshire Show is celebrating a food and farming industry that is plagued with uncertainty, created by the Brexit stalemate at Westminster. A no-deal with the European Union is being kept on the table by the Conservative Party’s two leadership candidates as a negotiating tool and the months up to the ‘leave’ date on October 31 will be “rough”, the National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters said.

But even with this backdrop of angst - farmers simply do not know which international markets they are preparing their goods for, a strain particularly on the lamb sector where margins are largely reliant on the European market - there is an overwhelming pride that continues to see farmers go to the considerable effort, time and expense to showcase their livestock to the public.

No-shows

In the current political climate, the chances of a Minister turning up as scheduled are decidedly iffy. Farming Minister Robert Goodwill may be a North Yorkshire MP - for Scarborough and Whitby - but he had to postpone his visit to the Great Yorkshire Show to swap the relatively short journey to the Harrogate showground to be in London.

In a statement issued by his department, Mr Goodwill said: “The Great Yorkshire Show is an unparalleled celebration of the best of British food and farming, I had planned to attend the first day of the show on Tuesday but due to parliamentary business on Northern Ireland legislation, I am required to vote and I will now be attending on Thursday.”

Exposure

The Great Yorkshire Show, in its 161st year, has long been established as a Yorkshire institution but never before have so many people from so far and wide had the chance to experience it for themselves. A 60-strong crew from Daisybeck Studios are at the show to film footage for their new series Today at The Great Yorkshire Show, a highlights package which will go out on Channel 5 at 8pm tomorrow and on Thursday.

It is long-merited exposure to a wider world, buoyed perhaps by the success of a growing stable of rural affairs content on television that can only serve to further the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's mission to better connect people with food, farming and the countryside.

Weather

Be prepared. Fortunately for this correspondent, equipped with only his mother’s spare purple umbrella after leaving his own at home, the showers that came and went during the afternoon’s action were light, but with the prospect of more showery weather to come this week, perhaps be sure to come to the show equipped - and with a brolly that is less conspicuous than this hapless reporters’, unless that is your style of course.