York farmer to take the helm at Great Yorkshire Show

THE NEW figurehead of the Great Yorkshire Show has spoken of his pride at leading England’s largest farming event into the next decade after being announced today as the new honorary show director.

Charles Mills, who becomes Show Director at the close of this years Great Yorkshire, with the current show director, Bill Cowling at the Great Yorkshire Showground.

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society has chosen one farmer to replace another, selecting Charles Mills, a long-serving member of the society, to take up the prestigious role. The position became available after Bill Cowling announced in October that this summer’s 157th show in Harrogate would be his last following a 10-year stint in the top job.

Mr Mills, who farms near York, faced competition from a host of candidates to take up the role in which he will also act as show director for the Great Yorkshire Show’s sister event, Countryside Live, which is held at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate every autumn.

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Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Mills, of Woolas Grange Farm in Appleton Roebuck, said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity and a huge honour which doesn’t come around very often.”

A keen supporter of the show, Mr Mills has been involved in the cattle section for 11 years and became joint chief cattle steward. Announcing his appointment, the YAS chairman, Simon Theakston, claimed Mr Mills will continue the “strong tradition of putting agriculture and rural life” at the heart of the Great Yorkshire Show and Countryside Live.

A Yorkshireman by birth and a third generation farmer, Mr Mills runs a mixed arable rotation operation over 470 acres of farmland with his wife, Jill. They also have a flock of 250 breeding ewes and a small beef finishing enterprise. The couple have two daughters, New York advertising exec Anna and her younger sibling, Sarah, who has forged a career in sales. Their son, James, is based in Brussels and works for the National Farmers’ Union.

Mr Mills says he loves being a farmer and despite years of involvement with the Great Yorkshire Show, it was the ill-fated show of 2012, when torrential, unseasonal weather saw the event cancelled after the first day, that the gravity of what it meant to him hit home.

“I realised then just what it meant to me,” he said. “It was my first year as a YAS trustee and I remember going up to the main offices and the decision was being made to cancel the show. It was such an emotional thing. The show meant so much to so many people and all the work they had put in over the last year had been lost. Going to tell the cattle exhibitors afterwards is something that will live with me forever.”

Paying a compliment to Mr Cowling, he added: “He has been an incredible show director and has brought it back into being very much an agricultural show and he has the team all pulling together. I want it to continue in a similar manner.”

Mr Mills’ first taste of the top job will come at this year’s show, which runs from July 14 to 16, when he will shadow Mr Cowling before accepting the crook of office in the show’s closing ceremony. Mr Cowling will continue to contribute to the show as a member of the cattle committee.

Wealth of experience

THE NEW honorary director of the Great Yorkshire Show proved the standout candidate with a CV full of agricultural experience in Yorkshire.

Since 2002, Charles Mills has been a member of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Council, its governing body. He chairs the judging panel for the Tye Trophy Farming Awards, which are handed out annually to promote farming excellence coupled with conservation practices.

He is the chairman of the Yorkshire Food, Farming and Rural Network, and has also played a significant role in the YAS’s work with young people, serving on its Grants and Education Committee and running arable workshops for primary school children. He is a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire’s management committee which was set up by the YAS, and is a member of the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association.