Judging by the popularity of TV’s “Countryfile”, “Spring Watch “, “The Blue Planet “ series and other programmes there is massive interest in – even concern for – the Natural World and Man’s place in it. There is a constant bombardment from the media of more evidence of global warming and environmental degradation on land and in the oceans caused by Man. These may distress us briefly and from time to time.
It is all too easy to assume that individually, as consumers we can do little or nothing about it. But we need to question that assumption and take personal responsibility for some of our actions and choices however much against the grain of current consumer habits.
Farming and forestry uses some 70% of the UK’s landmass to produce food, fibre (wool) and fuel (wood and wood products). Its structure has largely been small, family units. It has always had to adapt to forces out of its control beyond the farm gate : the Industrial Revolution ; population explosion ; shifting consumer demands; supermarkets’ buying power; World commodity prices ; UK governments’ policies and regulations; the developments in science, technology, animal and plant genetics , engineering wizardry – and the weather.
Farmers determined to survive must try to understand and respond to these shifting forces in planning their businesses. They work extra-ordinarily hard to do so. Moreover each year an unsung miracle is achieved by farmers and horticulturalists : with a shrinking workforce, on fewer acres the essential raw materials are produced which underpin a massive and diverse food and drinks sector characterised by the abundance of choice on our supermarket shelves.
The original aims of agricultural shows was to encourage improved quality of livestock and crops by staging farmer-to-farmer competition classes. This is still relevant. However, I passionately believe it is equally important for agricultural shows to demonstrate to their visitors the vital contribution of agriculture to our Nation’s security and well-being in a still volatile World.
Equally I hope our visitors will appreciate the complex and often conflicting expectations placed upon the farming sector in respect of habitat protection and restoration, landscape diversity and recreational access whilst simultaneously delivering each year a full larder for the Nation.
Welcome to our Show. I hope you enjoy your day with us. Thank you for your support.