I visited the ploughing championships for the first time in 6 years and my conclusion is that we have lost it to greed. The Ploughing Championships has always been a great event for farmers and it remains an annual tradition is some farming households. The routine of getting up really early, packing the flasks of tea and sandwiches and heading off to enjoy a day out, away from the farm is what it’s all about. When you arrive, you go from tent to tent and will recognise one fella or another in most of them as you stop for tea and chat your way through the exhibitors. You learned things and found things and you always left with some benefit, whether it be knowledge or a contact or whatever. It’s always been about the farmers.
This year, that focus on farmers seemed pushed to the left while the focus on money was evident. The big marquees belonged to big companies and it’s fairly obvious that the more money you provide, the more space you have for a marquee. Therefore, even among the big companies, the real heavy hitters were clear. At least 4 of these big tents belonged to the supermarkets, each claiming to “work with” and encourage farmers. I’m not sure that a lot of farmers would agree with that statement.
If you were looking for an organisation to help you in some way, AWARE or NALA for example, you had to look. And look, and continue looking until eventually you found them tucked neatly away in a tent that housed about 30 organisations. They each had about 5 foot of space with which to use for the work that they do.The disparity between those with big budgets and those without was stark.
Livestock, at the heart of farming, was tucked away in a little corner at the very end of the rows. Although just a single tent for sheep, it was nice to look and comment and do all the things that farmers do. There were a few tents for pedigree cattle dotted in the little area but no where near as many as I once remembered.
This event has grown enormously over the past number of years and it’s understandable that allowances have to be made to keep everyone happy. Like any event, it will also diversify over time as demands grow. But, with farmers already going through a hard time, is this event just one more to be hit by the appeal of euro signs?
While the commercialism and greed was evident in this year’s event, it was nice to see a neighbouring farmer that you haven’t spoken to in months, or the friend you only ever meet at the ploughing. However, the conversations between farmers centre around the hard times that aren’t yet over.