View from the Society: Broad appeal of Countryside Live

With Countryside Live set to be held at the Great Yorkshire Showground on October 22-23, show director Charles Mills, gives his view on the event and how it fits with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s work year round in supporting agriculture and rural life.

My first major task as show director was to host last year’s Countryside Live, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s autumn fatstock event. Having been involved with the Society for many years, I was no stranger to it.

Show director Charles Mills will be hosting his second Countryside Live when the event returns on October 22-13.  Picture: Tony Johnson.

Show director Charles Mills will be hosting his second Countryside Live when the event returns on October 22-13. Picture: Tony Johnson.

As a cattle steward both there and at the Great Yorkshire Show, I knew the livestock element well but over the last year, working with the team has made me appreciate the breadth of the Countryside Live’s appeal and its place in the fabric of rural life.

As with the Great Yorkshire Show, Countryside Live is a practical and relevant example of how the Society provides a platform for visitors to learn first-hand about British agriculture. Our two shows are a shop window for the industry and give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the crucial role of farmers in producing our food and in caring for the countryside. They complement the Society’s year round wide-ranging activities such as our education initiatives and Future Farmers group.

Agricultural shows lie at the heart of rural life providing a focus for championing the best of British farming to a wide audience as well as being a great encouragement to the next generation of farmers and related industries. Countryside Live is a weekend event which works well as it appeals to a different audience to the Great Yorkshire.

Countryside Live has its roots in the farming community and was born out of the former Northern Counties Livestock Society’s show which was aimed at farmers, featuring classes for cattle and sheep. That was 15 years ago, and since then it has evolved hugely with a much broader remit.

Our new hall provides the perfect setting for showcasing what farmers are all about – producing food. This year we have a tasting hub which will feature Yorkshire cheeses and beer from the county and beyond. Around this are lots of food related businesses whose owners will be talking about food provenance which is so important and of course there’s the chance to taste samples.

It’s vital that we as farmers engage with our customers. Grain trader, Simon Cockerill of Isaac Poad, who also produces Yorkshire-brewed beer, is just one person who will be talking about the journey from grain to beer glass as part of our tasting hub.

Also high on my personal agenda is encouraging young people to get involved in agriculture. New this year is the Young Shepherd of the Year competition held by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and we are delighted to host the final.

Farming has so much to be positive about and it’s vital we enthuse young people. Getting involved in shows not only gives wonderful experience but provides a chance for youngsters to chat to their peers and gain insights into what can seem a closed world.

We are fortunate to have the support of livestock exhibitors from across the country, and this year we have more cattle entries than ever, and our sheep numbers remain strong.

Our team is putting the practicalities in place to ensure the standard is as high as ever. It is very much a team effort and the strong reputation which both our events have is a tribute to their hard work and the support of the agricultural community.