As wind and rain lashes the UK, it seems an appropriate note for what can sometimes be a wet agricultural show season.
Yet as the photographs in this week’s FG highlight, the show season is well underway and, on the whole, is marching on in good weather and with good numbers of exhibitors and visitors. But the challenges our agricultural shows face are in some ways a snapshot of the wider challenges of the industry.
Some are struggling to attract cattle numbers as a result of bovine TB; others battle for their futures as the farm and rural balance of local communities shifts; and others try and adapt in an ever-changing world. Yet for many people they remain the centre of the social and commercial worlds of agriculture and are vehicles which draw people together in a spirit of togetherness and camaraderie.
The old adage that they are the ‘shop window’ for pedigree livestock genetics may not have the same resonance it once did as technology advances, but there is still huge kudos attached to animals with a bag full of summer rosettes. There are also places, such as livestock markets, where people can come together in a social setting.
In a farming world in which social isolation is potentially on the rise, they form a vital arena for members of the rural community to do much needed catching up. As well as being a shop window for livestock, shows are a shop window for the industry itself, where food production can be showcased to the public.
As Aled Jones, assistant chief executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, so cogently argued in his award-winning Nuffield Scholarship presentation last year, there is a real place for agricultural shows and societies to go beyond their farm remit and engage with an urban audience often detached from what farming has to offer.
Our agricultural shows, like silaging or harvest time, are an integral part of British summer and we must celebrate what they have to offer.
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