Lucrative returns from the shop window

DRIFFIELD SHOW takes centre stage next Wednesday and the Craven family of Fangfoss will be back competing with their award-winning British Blonde cattle, but behind all the preening, washing, brushing and fluffing that takes place in preparation for the show ring, there’s another more financially lucrative incentive.

Andrew Craven from Fangfoss in a field of wheat on his farm (Gl1006/46b)

Agricultural shows are also a highly effective shop window as Andrew Craven explains: “We showed two Blonde bulls last year, one that was two-years-old and the other just a year old. They won quite a few times which was fantastic for us, but the other major benefit was that their prospective buyers saw them, came to the farm afterwards and purchased them at very good prices.”

That kind of return continues to support the ideology of agricultural shows.

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Trevor Craven is the head of the family that sees he and his wife Lavinia living in a bungalow in the village of Fangfoss having lived for many years at Beechwood House Farm on the edge of the village. Their son Andrew lives at Whinberry Hill Farm between Fangfoss and Wilberfoss. The farming operation runs to over 500 acres of which around half is owned with the remainder either tenanted or rented. There are now three generations involved with the farm as Andrew’s son David is very much a part of the operation.

The farm is a mixed enterprise including arable, cattle and sheep. They grow 70 acres of winter wheat, 40 acres of winter barley that is followed by stubble turnips for the sheep and over 200 acres of spring barley. Kale and fodder beet is grown to feed to the sheep, with the fodder beet also fed to the cattle. Trevor has always been the arable man of the farm while Andrew and David are both keen on livestock.

Trevor tells of his initial move to Beechwood House from Market Weighton: “I moved to Fangfoss in 1958 as I was wanting to be married and as a family we needed to expand. My father Ron owned a farm in Market Weighton and he bought Beechwood House Farm for me. My younger brother Len stayed on the home farm. When Len and I agreed to split our family partnership in 1982 and become two separate units I bought Whinberry Hill Farm where Andrew lives. Lavinia and I moved out of the farmhouse at Beechwood just a matter of weeks ago although the land is still part of our farm.

“What makes me feel really proud over what Andrew and David have achieved is when I see their homebred pure cattle doing well. There’s a great deal of joy to be had in winning at a show with an animal you’ve bred yourself.”

Andrew started with Blondes nearly 30 years ago but their showing of them came to the fore when David wanted to enter the show ring fray around 10 years ago.

“We set off with cattle by purchasing a few crossbred cows. When it came to deciding on a bull to put them to I liked the look of the Blondes, so we bought a Blonde. We then bought a pedigree cow or two and it’s built up from there. At present we have 40 pedigree British Blonde cows and another dozen crossbred cows that we put to the Blonde bull. We also buy between 40-60 store cattle to fatten mainly over the winter.

“We buy store cattle at anything from 10-15 months and take them through for a further four to six months feeding mostly ad-lib barley. We sell all stock through Selby livestock market. The trade is pretty good at the moment for quality butchers’ heifers.

“David was keen to show the Blondes when he left school and we now attend a dozen shows a year including this week’s Great Yorkshire, next week’s Driffield and others including Lincolnshire, Otley, Malton and Ryedale. David’s best ever show was our first Great Yorkshire Show when we won the junior heifer class with a homebred heifer that went on to become junior champion.”

The Cravens also have a flock of 350 breeding ewes, down significantly on the 450 they had but Andrew talks of numbers going back up.

“We culled to concentrate on greater quality. In the main we have had Suffolk X and Texel X but we have gone a little bit more into Mules recently. The bulk of lambing takes place in December/January for the Easter market but we have increased later lambing in the past couple of years. We’re now leaning more towards livestock then arable. We moved that way when grain prices fell away some years ago.”

The farm is also in the Entry Level Stewardship scheme.

“We have some tough bits of land that are now bird cover and we leave a lot of grass margins. I enjoy seeing the birds so it works well.”

Next weekend sees a quite different show take place on the Cravens’ land. The Wolds Vintage Rally moved from Bishop Wilton to Fangfoss last year and although Trevor isn’t a member of the society that runs the event and attracts thousands he has an MF550 tractor that is nigh on 50 years old and is fitted with an Acrobat hay turner still in use today.

“The Wolds Vintage Rally was in danger of finishing if they hadn’t found another site,” says Andrew. “When I was approached about them using one of our fields and was told they needed 15 acres I thought it seemed a lot but they filled it all including the extra acreage I’d mowed. We must have had something like 400 caravans in addition to all the parking and the show itself. I said they could have the fields for two years. If all goes well this year then we may be able to move it to another field next year.”

Trevor is more than happy to support the event as it raises much-needed funds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

“We all need to do what we can for the charity, particularly those who live and work in the countryside. Last year we had the helicopter in the field too.”

Driffield Show takes place on Wednesday, July 22. The Wolds Vintage Rally takes place on Saturday July 25 to Sunday, July 26.