Chairman John Pattison welcomes  visitors to the English Winter Fair.

Welcome to the first English Winter Fair – the show where livestock and those that breed, rear, finish and show farm stock are at the heart of what matters celebrating British farming.

This, our first event, has been a long time in the planning. We hoped to supersede the National Primestock Show in 2007 introducing changes the committee hoped would improve the show experience for visitors and exhibitors alike. Sadly, bluetongue restrictions put paid to our efforts.

In a way, that has made 2008 more special. There have been several major changes to make the English Winter Fair more inclusive and enjoyable for the farming public.

Sheep show rings have been brought inside Bingley Hall allowing those following both sheep and beef classes better access to all the action. Use of the upper exhibition balcony will see a host of manufacturers’ exhibits – including a focus on livestock handling for 2008 – where visitors can also enjoy a first class view of both main livestock rings.

Some things remain unchanged. The quality of cattle, pigs, seasonal poultry and sheep never fails to impress one wonders how judges find a single champion among such strong live classes and carcass competitions.

While specialist finishers often achieve top honours, a new homebred championship for those who breed and finish animals on the one unit will celebrate and widen the prize pool.

There have been changes to other classes. The products competition – celebrating those who put meat in front of consumers – will champion all manner of goods from pork sausage to specialist pies.

But it is people who matter most. Although some farm margins have improved we appreciate incomes remain challenged and a two-for-one offer for entry to the show should help. As ever, accompanied under 16s enter free and there is no fee for parking.

Once again we have to thank the support of sponsors who include ABP, Blue Merle, EBLEX, Zintec and breed societies. With their support we hope to have an action-packed weekend for visitors and exhibitors to enjoy.