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County shows celebrate all that is rural

May 31, 2019

County shows celebrate all that is rural

Take a look at the Visit Devon and Visit Cornwall websites and it quickly becomes apparent that over the coming summer months, our counties are busy places. Devon and Cornwall will be hosting festivals, food and drink fairs, agricultural shows, community events and local fetes many of which will be run on rural or coastal sites. These events are great family fun days out, that often raise money for good causes; but their importance is far greater to the rural community than just that.

Devon County Show Exeter

Take for example Devon’s biggest agricultural show, the Devon County Show, which last week saw thousands of people pass through its gates at Westpoint in Exeter. Attracting up to 95, 000 people annually and in its 124th year, the Devon County Show has been the flagship event of the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) since both began in 1872. Today the County Show offers a complete rural picture, including the biggest food fair in Devon, entertainment in the main ring, over 2000 animals, farm machinery, local producers, traditional crafts, small retailers, and representatives of large rural or land- based organisations. The County Show is a 3-day snapshot of contemporary rural Devon. It enables rural professionals to meet and explore each other’s businesses, ideas and best practices. It allows local producers, suppliers and retailers not only to make money, but to promote their products and the geographical area that those products were made in. The show brings together rural and urban people in an environment that fosters education and awareness of rural life, business and community to all participants, whether they are overtly aware of it or not.

Bulls Prize winning Devon

And this is replicated in the Royal Cornwall Show and the many other smaller agricultural shows that Devon and Cornwall will host throughout the summer. Nationally, according to the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations 7 million people visit agricultural shows in the UK every year. This is quite aside from the numbers of people involved in running the shows; and while there are paid staff behind each one, there are also a host of volunteers who help to make the shows happen. From those sitting on show committees, the Chairs and Presidents of each show, right through to the people on the gates and those picking up the litter, a broadly represented sample of the local community voluntarily support each aspect of each show.  Every aspect of the rural community comes together to run and to attend these shows making each show a complete reflection of the local area. While a show reflects the present day of a local rural area, it also participates in creating a future for it.

Beyond agricultural shows, there are ever more numbers of festivals and food and drink fairs. These have become increasingly popular to run and attend as rural and coastal communities are appreciating more and more the importance of coming together, of celebrating their heritage, and of giving local businesses and locally made products opportunity for promotion and sales.  During the rest of this month (just a few days) in Devon alone there will be BrixFest Brixham, Boringdon Gin Festival, Dartington Food Fair, The Seaweed Festival and the Kingsbridge Food and Music Festival. These events attract hundreds of people, tourists and locals alike, and are packed with stalls featuring local businesses and local products. As the importance of buying local becomes ever more apparent and popular, so too do the opportunities to promote and support it.

Alpacca Devon

At the DR Company we were set up in 2005 to be “Here For Local Businesses”. We are a not for profit company helping a diverse range of rural and coastal businesses and community projects to achieve their goals, prosper and thrive. We identify barriers to growth, raise the profile of rural issues and support business development and sustainability while seeking ways to increase the quality and quantity of jobs in rural areas. There is no better example of communities doing just this than at agricultural shows, food and drink fairs and festivals that celebrate their local heritage.  If there is one way that each of us can truly make a difference to our local economy and community this summer, it is by attending or volunteering at one of these events. The great thing is offering considerable support for a serious and vitally important cause has rarely been so easy or enjoyable! 

By Mary Talbot- Rosevear

Director of the DR Company and member of the Small Farms Association and a partner in the family accountancy and legal practice based in South Devon