Thousands of people battled the rain to cheer on the annual Lord Mayor’s Show and the Worshipful Company of Farmers were there to showcase the role of British farmers. Farmers Guardian takes a look at their work inside and outside of the event.
If you’ve ever watched the Lord Mayor’s Show on TV - or even attended it - you may regard it as a slightly eccentric gathering of old-fashioned occupations, with lots of pomp and ceremony to welcome in the new Lord Mayor of London.
Arguably on the surface that may be true, but one of the key participants - which aims to make a real impact every year - is the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
Thousands of people lined the streets of London to watch the incredible spectacle that is broadcast to millions worldwide. Even the rain did not deter from the strength of spirit and patriotism demonstrated from those involved.
This year, the livery company’s key representatives - including the NFU, Massey Ferguson and the Green Pea Company, were all united in taking a Back British Farming message into the heart of London to encourage more people to think about where their food comes from.
The parade was the culmination of the farming industry’s push to Celebrate Great British Food which during 2016 has included Back British Farming Day, Red Tractor Week and British Food Fortnight.
This year’s entry, thhat also celebrates the international year of pulses, saw 12 young farmers on a pea harvester and red tractor to reflect the Back British Farming messages.
Georgie Cossins, 27, who was one of the farmers in attendance works on her family farm in Dorset where they have two dairy units and 2,500 acres of arable land.
“The show was a great day and perfect opportunity to highlight young people within our industry as well as promoting British food and farming.
“Being in the parade gave us the perfect platform to engage with the crowds and tell them all about great British food and farming – and in this international year of pulses - particularly delicious nutritional peas.”
The historic three-mile long procession through the streets of the City of London includes most of the 110 livery companies along with more than 7,000 participants, 200 horses, 20 marching bands, dancers, performers, armed forces and Modern Livery Companies.
NFU president Meurig Raymond, who attended the event, says: “It’s wonderful to be supporting the Worshipful Company of Farmers in the Lord Mayor’s Show for the third year in a row.
“We have a great story to tell so the parade is the perfect platform to celebrate and promote British farming – an industry strategically important to our country – one that grows and produces the raw ingredients for the UK’s largest manufacturing industry - food and drink - worth £108 billion to the UK economy. It also provides jobs for nearly four million people.
“Saturday was a culmination of months of hard work and a huge team effort from all sides.”
While the show may be one of the most public gatherings of the City of London’s livery companies, it is only a small part of what they do, and that is certainly the case for the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
Celebrating its diamond jubilee in 2012 it is quite young by the standards of some of the livery companies, which date back 600 to 800 years.
The livery was set up after World War II when the farming industry gave £9 million (at 1940s value) to the British Red Cross.
This huge achievement was marked by King George VI with nine Oak trees being planted in a cross in Windsor Great Park.
The farmers involved also applied to become a livery company, which is how the Worshipful Company of Farmers came into being in 1952.
Livery companies exist to train people in a particular trade and to set standards and training is a key element within the Worshipful Company of Farmers.
Its advanced course in agricultural business management, run at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, is 53 years old next year, while its challenge of rural leadership course, at Duchy College in Devon, has been running for 20 years. More than 1,700 people have now attended the courses through a scholarship-based model depending on each individual applying.
The company also provides scholarships at some agricultural colleges, and sponsors a Nuffield Farming Scholarship Award where farmers can pursue an area of interest and travel internationally.
One of the major functions of the City’s livery companies is to raise money, with current private giving through the livery companies amounting to £41m a year.
This makes the City of London - usually associated with making money - the world centre for philanthropy.
The Worshipful Company of Farmers is no exception to this, and provides funds for many of the industry’s well-known charities, as well as to the Surrey Docks farm.
Its two flagship courses receive funding from the Company to help offset the cost for attendees, and it also provides grants for overseas travel for young people who want to expand their farming studies and knowledge.
Livery companies raise money through annual donations and legacies from liverymen, fundraising at key events and also through running their halls - such as the Farmers and Fletchers Hall - as commercial enterprises.
Traditionally, most livery companies have some military affiliation and The Worshipful Company of Farmers is involved with HMS Defender (a Type 45 Destroyer), the Westminster Dragoons (a Territorial Army regiment) and has a growing relationship with RAF Waddington and the Middlesex Wing of the Air Training Corps.
"Military affiliations are very important to us because they represent a concrete expression of the debt of gratitude we owe to the men and women who keep us safe and defend our freedoms."
While the show may have ended for another year, the livery remains dedicated to helping farmers across the country whether that be facilitating training, embracing tradition or spreading the word across the streets of London.
“Our livery company is dedicated to inspiring, encouraging and developing the management of the UK agricultural industry at all levels. Our display at the Lord Mayors Show allows us to promote both Great British Food as well as some the high tech equipment we use to produce it.
The warmth and support we receive along the entire route is testimony to the great relationship we have with the public which will be ever more important in the new era for farming.”
The Master is installed at the Company’s Harvest Festival service, with most Livery companies changing Masters at a key time of the year for their craft - so at the end of harvest for farmers, and spring for saddlers and woolmen.
A gown and chain of office are transferred to the new Master. The Farmers’ chain is particularly intricate, with 26 enamels of scenes of agriculture, including one of the Battle of Britain over Kent at harvest, reflecting the Company’s roots.
In most cases, to become a Liveryman, you must first become a Freeman of the Company and then obtain the Freedom of the City of London. A Freeman can then request to be clothed – for example become a member - subject to a vacancy in the Livery.
More details on how to apply for the Company’s Advanced Farm Business Management or Challenge of Rural Leadership courses can be found at www.farmerslivery.org.uk/farmers/ourcourses