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Vice President's Blog - 16 August 2017

Farmers are vital to the survival of the Scottish show scene and the contribution of shows to local economies must never be underestimated writes Vice President Martin Kennedy.

After spending the best part of last week alongside a great number of local farming and non-farming volunteers, setting up and taking down Aberfeldy Show and Games – Feldy Show to the locals - it is worth highlighting just how much more the farming industry provides for our country and communities beyond producing food.

There are more than a hundred agricultural shows throughout the year in Scotland and every one of them brings a huge amount to local areas.

From my own experience - but I’m sure it’s the same for many – Feldy Show not only has some fantastic stock on show, but it also has one of the busiest programmes of entertainment during the Games in the afternoon.  Visitors need eyes in the back of their heads as there is up to half a dozen events and attractions happening at any one time.  

Putting on a show that brings thousands of people to the town – sometimes for the whole week - doesn’t happen itself.  It takes a good, dedicated committee that can cope with anything that’s thrown at them including the Scottish weather.

It’s often been joked about that you fall out of the pram onto our committee at Feldy and the only way you can get out is to be carried off in a box!
Fortunately, that’s not quite the case. The reality is everyone enjoys the buzz around Feldy Show week and many things are given up for it. Although the Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman start work early in the year, the big set up starts on Monday night and finishes on the Thursday night prior to the Friday horse events with the main show and Games on the Saturday.  

While Feldy show is always extremely grateful to its sponsors, there is no question that the biggest sponsors are those who give up their time all week to run the two days to a high standard.

Most nights there are between 25 and 30 helpers with many of them having the tractors, trailers, forklifts and associated tools required to put it all together and the same folk help to take it all down again – an all-day Sunday affair.

If this time commitment by volunteers was to be costed properly, it would run into many thousands of pounds which is totally unaffordable for a small local show.

Then there’s the cost of what is getting missed out on.  There’s always something that should be happening at home but it takes second place during Feldy Show week.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no way either I nor any of the rest of those involved in the show would ever dream of charging for their time as everybody enjoys the banter and craic. This is something that is hugely important in areas where many farmers, for long periods of time, are working on their own.   The camaraderie around an agricultural show lifts what can sometimes be low moral given the current farming financial climate. I doubt very much if any of the smaller shows could survive without the priceless help of volunteers who willingly give up so much time and effort to promote their local area.

But it frustrates me immensely when there always seems to be hurdles put in front of shows by some local authorities.  Feldy Show was pushed out of the old Victoria Park more than a decade ago despite the free work and investment by the show committee in improving the grounds.

In hindsight, it was the best thing that happened as we have now practically doubled in size in our new park just outside the town.

Instead, we now face other charges like entertainment licences for the show and for the Young Farmers dance at night. The tens of thousands of pounds that’s brought in to the local community doesn’t seem to matter.  There always seems to be a tax imposed somehow.

The importance of a show to the local economy was well demonstrated a few years ago when we had to cancel the show due to weather conditions.  Local businesses were calling for us to reschedule later in the summer as they had missed out on a lot of valuable revenue. Sadly, we couldn’t do this as it would have clashed with other events.

That alone shows that the farming community provides much more than quality affordable food.  Let's make sure this is properly recognised and appreciated.

And if you are looking for me in the second week of August in 2018, you know where I’ll be.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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