CLA National Communications Manager, James Ketchell, on last week's Devon County Show.
It was with slight trepidation that I walked towards the entrance of my first County Show. Greeting me was the familiar smell of bacon mixed with the unfamiliar (to me) smell of cow dung. As I passed stall after stall selling everything from classic country wear to agricultural machinery via hot tubs, I was immediately struck by its size – this was no village fête.
At its centre were the showgrounds where cows were being judged by men in white coats and glamped up horses were cantering around the field. I walked past a line of parked tractors representing the evolution of this vital farming tool, from its almost toy-like beginnings to the complex and expensive machines used today. A stark visual metaphor of how agriculture has changed over the years.
Change was also high on the agenda for CLA’s political breakfast. Welcoming more than 250 guests and members, the CLA South West’s event is the stand-out item in the programme and a must-attend for anyone with an interest in rural life and politics. Joining us were CLA President Tim Breitmeyer, Under Secretary of State at Defra, David Rutley MP and Chair of the Efra Select Committee, Neil Parish MP.
Tim Breitmeyer reiterated the CLA’s views that climate change provided opportunities, not threats, for farmers and landowners. David Rutley praised CLA’s pragmatic and impactful voice and shared the government’s vision for an agricultural world where farmers would be rewarded for delivering public goods. Finally, an energetic Neil Parish reassured the audience that through the work of his committee he was holding government to account.
The rest of the day was taken up with hosting duties at the CLA stand. Overlooking the main boulevard in the centre of the show, it was a key stopping off point for members who were able to speak with CLA advisers, or who just wanted to put their feet up with a cup of tea and a biscuit. We also welcomed a number of people interested in finding out more about membership over the day.
Throughout the day I was struck by the number of school children making their way around. It isn’t always easy for the countryside to positively make the case to wider society and the next generation, but encouraging schools to interact with their local shows, like Devon County, should a be a given. Like me, they will have interacted with farm animals, eaten locally sourced foods and, to put it simply, experienced the best that the countryside has to offer.