9 July 1999

Rural lifestyle forum

NFU Countryside joined forces with the Royal Agricultural Society of England at the 150th Royal Show to launch a new Country Lifestyle area.

The three-year deal will involve new developments to focus on all aspects of rural life and is aimed primarily at the non-farming sector.

David Helland, NFU head of membership services, said many would ask why it was necessary to spend money creating an area for non-farmers.

"There have always been non-farming people at the Royal, of course. But, in the past, they have very much had to find their own way around and the show has not been geared to their interests," he said.

NFU Countryside now had more than 55,000 members. "And we have learned an awful lot about those who are interested in the countryside but who dont rely on it for a living," Mr Helland said.

He added that there were about 67,500 farming members of the NFU. And some were concerned that countryside members would soon outnumber farmers in the organisation. "I expect we will have 10 times more countryside members than farmers in a few years.

But that really is not a problem. Farming remains, and will remain, the core of the NFU," said Mr Helland.