Education comes to the fore at longstanding show

Farming lessons: Sam Blacker, left, and Steve Ross have both the Tockwith Show and the Coast to Coast walk on their minds.
Farming lessons: Sam Blacker, left, and Steve Ross have both the Tockwith Show and the Coast to Coast walk on their minds.
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When I was first cutting my teeth in the county’s agricultural show season one that most impressed was Tockwith.

Two and a half decades on and Tockwith Show continues to move forward. While its nearest neighbour Wetherby Show has long since slipped away this now has its own 25-acre showfield and attracts 10,000 visitors.

Sam Blacker is this year’s show president and tells of how the show has changed: “I became part of Tockwith Show when I left Bishop Burton College in 1966. When I first started we used to turn up the night before, just half a dozen local farmers with big hammers and wooden stakes to put together the main ring. It’s far bigger now.

“We’re not like the Dales shows where they have massive numbers of farms on their doorsteps. The farmers around Tockwith generally have larger arable farms so we have less of them. They’re very helpful and committed but our show is probably more of a whole community event that’s keen to educate about what goes on in the countryside. The level of misinformation about food is horrendous. Ask someone where bacon comes from and the stock answer is Tesco. We have to do something about that and the president’s marquee this year has been given over to the Education Zone. I think I’ve got a gazebo instead!

“We need to get across where food comes from, but not only food. Farmers look after the countryside too. We need to show everyone the whole picture.”

Sam and his wife Gill sold their 132-acre Wilstrop Hall Farm near Kirk Hammerton several years ago. Sam had developed a farmer co-operative called Ainsty Farms Direct that later morphed into Ainsty Farm Shop where he was a partner in the business with Stuart Beeton until retiring. Ironically it was Tockwith Show that led to the sale of the farm and the start of Sam’s retail career.

“Around 1997 when I was chairman we were looking for new attractions. Farmers markets were just becoming popular so we decided on a Farmers Market marquee but we had no-one to go in it so six of us on the committee formed Ainsty Farms Direct. We sold our own meat at the show and for a couple of years we took stands at various farmers markets. It soon became apparent that if we were selling fresh meat we would need a regular outlet and that’s when Stuart and I opened Ainsty Farm Shop.

“The farm had been my way of life but that had virtually disappeared after the outbreaks of BSE and Foot and Mouth. The quantity of paperwork afterwards was simply ridiculous and the farm shop had taken over our lives, so we sold up at Wilstrop. In some ways it was a difficult decision as I was a third generation farmer, but in other ways it was easy. Our farm was not suitable for intensification plus our children had no interest in farming. The lady who bought it is now chairman of Tockwith Show.”

Sheep, pigs and horses are all present in abundance at Tockwith Show, but you won’t see any cattle. “We are well supported by sheep breeds such as the Texel and the Ryland Sheep Society has taken us as one of its major shows. Philip Hughes is our sheep steward. Georgina Horsley of Acaster Selby ensures our pig classes are also well stocked. We also have a great show of Shire horses, a farrier demonstration and the fur and feather section, which is flying at the moment.

“We have a large equestrian section and the day prior to the show there is a dressage event. There are those who would like to see cattle back at the show but the showground is full to bursting already.

“We want everyone to go away from the show happy that they’ve had a good day and that includes not being ripped off by those charging excessive amounts for food and drink. We now use only local people and don’t charge them a fortune for their pitch; and we cap the price they charge for food.”

Steve Ross is the new show secretary and also looks after the website. He’s been involved with the show for the past six years and was press-ganged into it in time-honoured fashion.

“At least half the Tockwith Show committee has come about through conversations in either the Spotted Ox in Tockwith or the Bay Horse in Green Hammerton,” says Sam.

TV cameras will also be at the show this year with the star being a little lad and his pony.

“CBeebies are filming a series called ‘Me & My Pet’ and they contacted me a few weeks ago. A little lad had written in to say he was showing his pony here so they’re coming to film him.”

Two days after the show Steve and Sam will be embarking on Wainwright’s 192 mile Coast to Coast Walk for charity. Usually the show president simply nominates which charities will benefit from the proceeds of the show rather than coming up with another event.

“Steve and I do a lot of walking and I’d always wanted to do this one. It’s from St Bee’s Head in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay and we’re really looking forward to it. We’re raising funds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance and RABI.”

For details on sponsoring Sam and Steve’s Coast to Coast Walk see

Show facilities upgraded

Grants from a range of organisations have helped to upgrade the facilities at Tockwith Show ahead of next weekend’s event.

Using £35,000, Tockwith and District Agricultural Society (TADAS) have installed a new storage barn on their showground off Cattal Moor Lane. The investment in the new building will make the job of setting up the show easier for its band of volunteers.

Funding was provided by the Friends of TADAS, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the George A Moore Foundation, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and rural insurer NFU Mutual.

This year’s Tockwith Show takes place on Sunday, August 3 from 8.30am to 5pm. Entry on the day is £8 for adults.