AS always, we have our fingers crossed for clear skies when the 161st Great Yorkshire Show opens its gates today. Even if our wishes are granted, however, there still remain clouds of uncertainty over the agricultural sector until Brexit is resolved.
Different parts of the sector have distinctive concerns: will there be additional tariffs on livestock exports, or will the arable and horticultural growers be able to source the necessary labour at harvest time?
It is a difficult time for many farmers, but we believe both the Great Yorkshire Show and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society have an important role to play in helping them deal with these challenges. For this reason, we have become part of Grow Yorkshire, an organisation designed to cultivate enterprise by encouraging every farming and food business in Yorkshire to be inspired and enabled to seek greater profitability from their business.
Grow Yorkshire brings together organisations which already offer extensive assistance to farmers and farm businesses. It is looking to increase take up and impact of support services, identify the current and future needs of farming and food industry and secure future funding and backing from the Government to address them.
This sits well with our own objectives in promoting the rural sector. The Great Yorkshire Show is the biggest showcase for agriculture in England, attracting the very best livestock from right across the country. We are proud to this year host three national cattle breed shows: the Longhorn Cattle Society’s National Show, UK Beef Shorthorn Championships and National Charolais Show.
Whilst preparing animals for judging is undoubtedly hard work, it allows farmers to get together, to find out about the issues in other parts of the rural economy and regions and gather additional knowledge on how they can be tackled.
It also lets them see the latest machinery and equipment designed to help maximise efficiency and cost-effectiveness, particularly through our annual White Rose What’s Next innovation awards.
Among the visitors to the show will be Defra Minister Robert Goodwill, himself a Yorkshire farmer, who will be visiting a number of organisations to hear their concerns at first hand.
Alongside this is a range of networking and information events. These include the Future Farmers of Yorkshire Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday, which will look at ‘Adaptability in the Face of Change’ and how rural businesses can ready themselves for what may be a fast-paced re-structuring of the agricultural industry. Three farmers, NFU President Minette Batters, the ‘Red Shepherdess’ Hannah Jackson and arable director of JSR Farms Charlie Parker, will talk about how their businesses are adopting a “adaptability mindset” to thrive amidst change.
Rural crime will also be on the agenda as we join with the CLA on Wednesday to find out more about crime prevention and, as always, we will be offering our free farmer health checks.
While we can never forget that farming is a business and is crucial not only to the nuts and bolts of food supply but is also the guardian of our cherished Yorkshire landscapes, we try never to lose sight of the fact that there should also be some enjoyment in life!
So, alongside the business-focused activities over the three days, we are looking forward to some lighter moments, such as the welcome return of singer Lizzie Jones to the main ring, the Bolddog Lings motorcycle display team, member of the RAF Falcons parachute display team “dropping in”, weather permitting, and many of our usual highlights, such as the Grand Cattle Parade and the Cock O’ The North showjumping championship.
We also never forget to look after our future country-lovers, with activities ranging from Young Handler classes in the livestock section, to the Discovery Zone and its brand new Gen Z section aimed at promoting careers in agriculture with the Red Shepherdess herself.
Finally, it is fitting that this year we mark the 10th anniversary of Fodder, our farm shop and café, which was inspired by an earlier uncertain time in farming. The desire to find a way to support farmers came about during the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001. We wanted to create a business which would support local producers and the idea for Fodder was born.
Fodder is the only farm shop and café in the UK which donates 100 per cent of its profits to charity – the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, allowing us to continue to support and promote farming, food and the countryside throughout the year. This is just the type of idea needed to help farmers in our region to see beyond the immediate challenges and look for a brighter future.
Nigel Pulling is chief executive of Yorkshire Agricultural Society.