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Farmers back bid to win over public

4 July 2000
Farmers back bid to win over public

FARMERS at this years Royal Show have backed moves to attract more members of the non-farming public to agricultural events…more…

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Farmers back bid to win over public

4 July 2000
Farmers back bid to win over public

By Alistair Driver

FARMERS at this years Royal Show have backed moves to attract more members of the non-farming public to agricultural events.

Some agricultural shows, including the Royal, are increasingly exhibiting lucrative non-farming rural attractions in a bid to ride out the farming crisis.

The Royal Show is one of Britains biggest farming events. It is expected to attract about 175,000 people to Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, from 3-6 July.

But the Country Lifestyle area at the Royal Show includes stands selling Jacuzzis and antiques rather than demonstrating the latest farming techniques.

This is the second year in succession that the area has been given a prominent position at the show. It has grown massively since its first appearance in 1999.

Darlington farmer Doug Nesbitt, who is showing Charolais cattle and Texel sheep at Stoneleigh, said that he still believed the Royal was a farming show.

The increasing number of stalls selling and exhibiting products that have nothing to do with farming merely reflect the way farming needs to go, he said.

Mr Nesbitt added: “If they cannot get as much money from farmers as they used to, they should try to get it from the general public by diversifying.”

Barry Butler, from Holsworthy, Devon, said he believed there is a danger that the show, once based totally on animals, could become a huge theme park.

But the show is still the “equivalent of the cup final” for livestock exhibitors and had not lost anything by the general public attending, he added.

Smaller shows have been losing exhibitors in droves thanks to the farming crisis, said Mr Butler, who is exhibiting Aberdeen Angus cattle.

“It has cost me around 1000 to show two animals here, and many people can just not afford that,” he said.

Many farmers believe attracting more show-goers gives producers a chance to educate the public about key issues, such as food safety and welfare.

That view was endorsed by Amanda Jardine, who was visiting the show on a day out with her non-farming family from a village in Bedfordshire.

Mrs Jardine said she had visited show for the last two years and was drawn by the variety of the stalls and exhibits, including the Country Lifestyle area.

However, although she attends mainly for the non-farming exhibits, Mrs Jardine said she had learned a great deal about farming while at the showground.

“We learn a lot watching the animals being shown, about the way they are kept and about the problems facing farmers at the moment.”

Nearby, a bubbling Jacuzzi was being demonstrated by Stephen Hunnisett of Hydropool Spas, who said more people than ever were looking at stalls like his.

“It is still primarily a farming show, although there is now something for everyone,” he said.

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