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In testing times, agricultural shows have never been more important for farming communities

Simon Evans, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys, pictured during his year as president of the Aylsham Show in 2016. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Simon Evans, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys, pictured during his year as president of the Aylsham Show in 2016. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

On the eve of the 73rd Aylsham Show, former president SIMON EVANS, agricultural partner at Arnolds Keys-Irelands Agricultural, says these traditional rural events remain as important as ever to the modern farming industry.

Agricultural shows are woven into the fabric of our rural communities.

With the steady diversification of these shows over time, they now attract people from all walks of life, not just those with a direct interest in farming or other agricultural activities.

Shows are often run by volunteer member-led committees dedicated to ensuring the longevity of these traditional events. At the same time these shows provide an invaluable opportunity to demonstrate innovation and modernisation of machinery, equipment and practices.

Often the social highlight of the farming calendar, they provide an opportunity for farmers and their families to come together and catch up on the highs and lows of the year. A lot of work has been done in recent months to draw attention to the mental health of the industry, and shows are an excellent way to reconnect with others, particularly those held towards the end of a busy harvest season.

They are an opportunity for livestock farmers to showcase what their hard work has achieved with ever-popular cattle, sheep and pig handling competitions, which are also enjoyed by younger members of the family. Historically livestock competitions offered the chance to identify superior genes with a view to improving productivity on holdings near and far.

And for those not directly employed by or involved in agriculture they provide an invaluable insight into the farming world, as well as providing a fun day out.

The agricultural sector is as open to new entrants as any, and needs to be in order to continue to innovate and improve. Agricultural shows are an excellent chance for those looking to develop a career in agriculture or a connected enterprise; asking questions of those with experience and making useful connections.

UK farming and connected trades have an incredibly rich heritage and a wealth of traditional practices have been passed down from generation to generation. The challenge is translating and communicating this to the modern day farmer and show visitor.

With a constant deluge of Brexit press coverage there is a risk of the farming industry developing a disconnect from the very people it needs the most. Agricultural shows provide the opportunity to clearly demonstrate what is best about this industry, and why individuals should back British farming.

The last show on my calendar is the Aylsham Show which takes place on the Blickling Estate on Monday August 26. At the time of writing the weather forecast looks to be in favour of the 73rd show, with around 16,000 visitors expected to attend. I hope to see you there.

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