From the largest, through the smaller northern region shows and ending with the last meet of the year, Kine, Sounder and Trip takes a jaunt through a season of agricultural shows, county fairs and markets attended by Bill Quay Community Farm. From the traditional with their Northumberland wrestling and dressed potatoes, the small specialised breed show in the Borders, right up to the big three day events which incorporate smithy displays, stuffed toy animals and Batman. Although there is a competitive edge to the shows, as everybody wants to walk away with best in breed, the overall atmosphere is one of fun and camaraderie, an ambience which is reflected in the pictures.
Steeped in tradition almost as old as the hillsides in which they are held, it is easy to assume that the agricultural fairs are a hangover from a bygone era. Consider the judge dressed in black suit and bowler hat, whilst the burly farmer in his white coat and polished wellies scampers timidly around the ring with his charge like a child with a new puppy. Or the names on the pens: Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth, Charollais, Ryeland, Kerry Hill, Belted Galloway, names bewildering to those who shop predominantly in supermarkets, buying their silverside wrapped in cling film and the occasional shank sitting in a polystyrene tray.
But look to the trade stalls emblazoned with:’Genus. Long Life Cows’ or ‘Hornex calf dehorning paste’ and those promising 30% extra milk yield and bigger, better cattle. Here you can see that farming is very much aligned with current trends in genetics, and given that the Great Yorkshire Show had 126,376 visitors in 2008 and, according to the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations, six million people visit agricultural and country shows in the U.K. annually, about 10% of the population, it is obvious that the agricultural show is as relevant today as it has always been.
The photographs meander between the show pens, mingle with the crowds between the trade stalls, lingering for a moment on the diseased severed goats feet lying on a table.
© Steve Conlan