In the third week of July, all roads usually lead not to Rome but to Llanelwedd, Powys, for the Royal Welsh Show – Europe’s biggest agricultural festival.
In a normal year Wales’ four-day pinnacle event attracts almost 250,000 people from 40 different countries. But as with so many other agricultural shows, the organisers have had to cancel the physical event this year due to coronavirus, at an estimated cost of £1.2m.
The last time the show was cancelled was in 2001 because of the foot and mouth crisis.
The 2020 event will be unlike any other, with farmers, members and the general public enjoying the agricultural spectacle from the comfort of their homes.
And as the Royal Welsh goes digital, show animals across the UK, from bantams to Belted Galloways, will be taking a week’s staycation.
Thousands of head of livestock that usually fill the showground near Builth Wells for show week are taking a back seat this year as their owners enjoy the agricultural event without packing their wellies and white coats.
However, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) is keen to showcase and celebrate the agricultural industry online. The week-long digital event will start on Monday 20 July.
RWAS chief executive Steve Hughson said: “This is no substitute for the show, but it will be an opportunity to bring people together to demonstrate our resilience at this difficult time.”
The society, in partnership with other key organisations, aims to ensure that all sections of the show offer an experience to newcomers and bring back memories to those who would usually be enjoying a week-long celebration of agriculture in Llanelwedd.
Meanwhile, RWAS has launched a campaign, #20mewn20 (#20in20), to raise £20,000 in 20 days in the run-up to the virtual show, with the money raised being split between three charities.
The DPJ Foundation, Tir Dewi and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (Rabi) have been selected to recognise the importance of support and raise the awareness of mental health in the agricultural industry. To donate funds, visit the JustGiving page.
The society Facebook page is sharing videos and previews of what will be on offer during show. A new Facebook group has also been created for members and show-goers to share memories and take part in competitions.
Virtual Royal Welsh Show seminar highlights
A new platform has been created alongside the society’s website and is now open online and accepting registrations.
Hundreds have already signed up to receive updates, notifications and information. To register go to the society’s website.
Monday 20 July
8.30am Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) virtual breakfast with Welsh minister Lesley Griffiths
The HCC breakfast on the first morning of the Royal Welsh is a traditional highlight which often helps to set the news agenda for the week.
This year, Welsh government rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths and HCC chair Kevin Roberts will set out their views on the state of the industry, with key facts and figures in digital form, and offer an outlook for the rest of the year.
10.15am Transitioning to Sustainable Farming: Meeting the challenge in Wales
A live, interactive webinar chaired by farm business consultant and sheep farmer Rhys Williams and featuring prominent, forward-thinking dairy farmers Patrick Holden and Dafydd Wynne Finch as panellists.
The panellists will share their thoughts and take questions from listeners regarding the future sustainability of farming businesses in Wales, paying particular attention to food and the environment.
11am NFU Cymru in discussion with Wales’ first minister
Following a successful and well-attended Brexit seminar at last year’s Royal Welsh Show, Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford will join NFU Cymru leaders again for an online seminar.
3.30pm Wales YFC results
During the Royal Welsh the young farmers section will be busy as usual. Join and share memories of past competitions you’ve competed in and see a varied programme of events across the week.
Tuesday 21 July
10am CLA Cymru: Future of the Environment – A Strong Partnership with Business
Now more than ever it is essential that business management is conducted through the lens of managing the environment.
This event brings together key thinkers from across the world of business and the environment who will highlight the key issues we need to embrace post-Covid.
11am Food Supply Chains and Production – Global Outlook with a Local Strategy: What has Covid-19 taught us?
The coronavirus hit all sectors of life and was met with panic buying and empty supermarket shelves. However, it wasn’t luxury items that the general public rushed to get their hands on, but essentials including food.
For many years the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has stressed that food security is an issue that needs desperate attention, and the past few months have served to illustrate such concerns.
11am Hill Ram Scheme at Home
Hybu Cig Cymru’s John Richards will chair a discussion between geneticist Dr Janet Roden and Hill Ram Scheme member Rhidian Glyn about how the scheme and the use of genetic improvement is benefiting Mr Glyn’s flock and his farm business.
The Hill Ram Scheme is part of HCC’s five-year Red Meat Development Programme and is included in the Welsh government’s Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
11.30am Sustainable Farming and Our Land: Shaping the future with Welsh government, Welsh farmers and managers
Moving from the current Basic Payment Scheme to a new land use policy based on sustainable land management will be a significant change for farmers and land managers across Wales.
This event will feature a keynote address from the Welsh government, while professional members and CLA Cymru experts will discuss the next steps for the Sustainable Farming and Our Land scheme and the key events and actions that will take place over the next 12 months.
2pm Unlocking Connectivity in Rural Wales
Connectivity in Wales has improved dramatically over the past five years and continues to do so. Hosted by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, this seminar will ask: what hope is there for those communities who remain unconnected?
Wednesday 22 July
10.30am Business Wales Round Table Discussion: Running a business in rural Wales
This round-table will be an opportunity to hear from a variety of key stakeholders and business owners who face the challenges of running a business in rural Wales.
Hosted and chaired by Business Wales, this session will provide an insight into the issues facing businesses across all sectors, from hospitality to professional services.
2pm Recent Innovations in Agricultural Research
Researchers from Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales look at developments of direct relevance to farmers in the fields of grassland management, beef cattle genetics, upland farming and agroforestry.
Thursday 23 July
2.30pm Farming Connect: Pasture-Based Beef and Lamb Production
Featuring a “Prosper from Pasture” case study video featuring Aled Picton Evans, Rest Farm, Henllan Amgoed, Whitland. The main enterprise at Rest Farm is a dairy x beef rearing and finishing unit which aims to reduce the cost of production through grazed grass.
3pm Hybu Cig Cymru: Sustainability and Red Meat the Welsh Way
Welsh farmers will discuss how they rear their animals sustainably and there will also be tips on sourcing local food to create fabulous family meals.
7pm Mental Health – How are you Doing?
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017 to keep the spotlight on mental health issues for as long as it remains a problem in our rural communities.
Approaching the fourth year of awareness-raising and doing everything possible to help break the stigma, FUW asks: How are you doing?
Together with the leading farming charities in Wales, FUW takes a look at what has changed, how far we have come and what issues still remain.