The South of England Agricultural Society is celebrating its 50th year of supporting farming, agriculture and the countryside in the South of England.
Its flagship event, the South of England Show is only days away now on 8, 9 and 10 June at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, and organisers are promising the best show yet.
A registered charity founded in 1967 from a consolidation of agricultural societies going back to the 1830s, the society works across the six counties of Berkshire, East Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex. Its aims are to showcase farming, agriculture and the countryside through annual shows, which help it to serve the community by providing educational grants, awards, bursaries and scholarships for people involved in agriculture, horticulture and land-based industries.
Society chairman Charlie Burgoyne said: “We are delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will be our president in this important year for the society, which will culminate in a very special South of England Show celebrating the achievements of the society over the past 50 years.”
“In a world where population growth threatens our food security and urban spread constantly puts our green spaces at risk we will continue to work hard to highlight the importance of farmers in today’s society.
“Our British farmers grow our food and are the custodians of our beautiful countryside and we aim to remind people of what an important role they continue to have in our society today.”
Throughout 2017 the society is highlighting its educational work, which sows the seeds to help children to appreciate and understand where their food comes from and the importance of the countryside. The charity will increase its role in encouraging and supporting young people who have chosen careers in rural industries and it will continue to provide opportunities to achieve excellence through its competitions for young craftsmen, aspiring horticulturists, young farmers, foresters and all students training for careers in the countryside.
Thousands of young people have benefitted from these initiatives over the last 50 years and millions of people have been brought closer to the countryside at the society’s shows.
Since 1967, the society has managed competitions to encourage and inspire college students, and between 1983 and 2000 its unique Farmers Adopt a School project encouraged 100 farmers to adopt 116 schools, enabling pupils to visit regularly throughout each year to discover the origins of their food and how the countryside is cared for.
University lecturers, teachers and members of education business partnerships have taken part in training days run by the society to emphasise the importance of the countryside in the curriculum.
Since 2006 the annual Connect with the Countryside event has hosted 27,500 school children at the South of England Showground; 30 Nuffield Scholars have received support from the society since 1979; 200 farming groups or couples have been given assistance by the Agricultural Eurolink Network established in 1986; and since 1974, motre than 13,000 farmers, landowners and agriculturalists from across the region have attended the South of England farming conferences.
The Countryside Hub within the Discover the Countryside Zone will display the schools competition entries in celebration of “50 Years of the South of England Agricultural Society”. Competition categories include ‘Grow any plants or vegetables with the display representing the number 50’, ‘Make a Scrapbook showing 50 things you love about the Great British Countryside’, and ‘A 50-word poem about your photo of the Great British Countryside’ with a prize being awarded to the winner of each category for each Key Stage Group.
Local colleges will provide farming displays to show the future of farming, while bugs and insects made of recycled materials and painted gold and made by textile students will also be on display.
As well as the opportunity to milk Buttercup, the life-size cow, there will be the children’s corner with various activities and a display of the projects the Society’s Education Committee works on throughout the year.
New to the show this year is The Devil’s Horsemen, Britain’s top equestrian stunt and trick team, and other favourites in the main ring include the high-energy Shetland Pony Grand National; world-class show jumping; hound parades; and the famous livestock display, where hundreds of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pigs and goats take centre stage.
Family and friends can take full advantage of the ticket prices again this year with under 16s going FREE (accompanied by a paying adult, £21); senior citizens and students over 16 £19. There is also FREE parking and a regular bus shuttle service from Haywards Heath train station to the showground.
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This first appeared in etc Magazine’s June edition out now.