From the early morning church service on the bandstand on Tuesday, to the jump-off of the much coveted ‘Cock o’ the North’ show jumping decided in the early evening of Thursday, the Great Yorkshire Show is both fantastic and frenetic. Like many other shows and events across the country, the Great Yorkshire has been cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions; so sadly the annual pilgrimage to Harrogate in July is not to be.
For all those who regularly work at shows it is an exhausting exercise; leaving the B&B by 6am to avoid getting stuck in traffic and not returning until the evening. The exhibiting stockmen usually sleep on-site and are up and about in the early hours washing and preparing stock ready for the first classes of the day. But you can’t beat the wonderful smell of fried bacon from the first caterers on site!
A valiant effort is being made to create a virtual event over the three days. Out of necessity in recent months, we have had to learn about Zoom and Microsoft Teams in order to carry on with business. All our excellent ways of keeping in touch with others and exchanging information, but nothing replaces human contact and conversation. This is the real value of shows such as the Great Yorkshire; over the course of three long days you meet so many friends and business colleagues and get introduced to many new contacts. A conversation leaning on the fence watching cattle being judged, can be as productive (if not more so) as a formal presentation in the boardroom.
Agricultural shows generate business through meeting professionals, breed societies promoting individual breeds, farmers showcasing their breeding stock for sale, machinery manufacturers and of course retail therapy. There is also an educational element as organisations such as The Yorkshire Agricultural Society use their show to explain the journey from field -to-plate. Many will have known the late Mike Keeble. Mike was a Yorkshire farmer, regular contributor to ‘Farmers Guardian’ and commentator at many shows, who devised his ‘Housewives Choice’ inviting non-farming ladies visiting the show to get involved with judging a commercial beef class! And last but not least shows are great social occasions; ever more important as farming becomes an increasingly isolated occupation.
Another regular event always coincides with the Wednesday of Great Yorkshire. 22 miles along the A59 in Skipton, Craven Cattle Marts conduct the first sizeable sale of store lambs with 4,666 entered. This gives us our first real indication of what trade is going to be like in the months ahead.
And of course, we have the result of the unofficial “I am the first to have started combining in Yorkshire” competition. As the 2020 cereal harvest got underway at the beginning of the month it is usually the week of the show before anything is cut around Harrogate. With no show to attend to tell everyone you have started, you will have to rely on social media!
By Ian Bell, Head of Farming & Rural Engagement
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