Of a morning, If not completely zombied out, Radio 4 Farming Today is my aural cup of Ovaltine. Frequently the drink goes cold and I don’t hear what that lovely breathless lady presenter is saying. But enough gets through the half- sleep barrier to spell out that not all is well in the UK farming world.
I know it to be so, diversification to survive is the mantra. Times are very tough. How uplifting therefore to hap upon a sunkissed early June day at the local agricultural annual event: The Suffolk Show. Very much alive and kicking where others round the country have bitten the dust.
We strolled in and it was humming – punters like us were gawping at the farm machinery. (a dim memory bubbled up that I used to visit this show with alarmingly small children – it is bliss to clamber round on the tractors without having to give fair turns).
The Robdog is on my arm ” I hear that John Deere have the biggest tractor in the world here” well blow that – we got stopped in our tracks by the smell of rubber on the Claas Stand. I photographed away and listened to passing comments: “185K”, “have you seen that reverse-drive tailboard?” amongst others.
The place is a-hum and it is a sartorial feast. We’ve hit it mid range with the trilby entry-point. What is seriously great though is the dress code for Stewards – (members of the Suffolk Agricultural Association who turn up and man the stands. Farmers every manjack of them). Well its Blues Brothers for the boys, bowler-hatted one and all. The lady Stewards outshine them, are out of this world with fascinators and teetery heels and we are practically in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
Judges take it more or less seriously with a dress-code unto themselves. All this rubs along marvelously with the coiffed and blow dried cows and the immaculate polished and brassed up horses for the Heavy Horse Events. Horses have ripply patterns emblazoned on their haunches, stylish ankle-boots and as for the pigs: very scrubbed backs.
These busy and pressed farmers have taken time from their long and arduous day to pack up their herds and hot foot it to this Showground for the 2 day event. I spoke to Katharine Salisbury an exhibitor of a Guernsey Herd, a local coming from Creeting St Mary but a few villages away. Their cows and business make 2 award-winning cheeses and they sponsor the Class of young handlers in the Diary section of the Show.
The presiding murmur of the exhibitors is of passion, pride and the fiercest desire to hand all this down to the next generation.
For my part, as the happy ice-cream-licking-stroller, I get that mood. As a Brit, I am feeling fiercely proud and nostalgic. This is the rural it and we need to support these farmers so that events like this with tents for beekeepers, rabbit fanciers, shire horse pulling brewery drays, Miss Joan Hunter-Dunn on her cob and oh-my-oh-my the largest donkey in the world ALONG with the classic tractors, the ultimate in JCB frontloaders straining for the stratosphere and wierd little pooty machines like a classic and old fashioned turnip slicer can MAKE OUR DAY!
All this finds its zenith in the utterly marvelous Grand Parade which is how the Red Arrows would do it if they had hooves and cumbersome weight to drag about.