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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

True Great British Spirit

Last week was a very strange week for me. It started off with a double bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, 3 BBQ's, 2 Cake days and a lot of Pimms or Calvors Lager consumed. Having just moved house, I attended my old village’s party in the village hall. Then the following day I was helping a couple of young residents in my new village to decorate crowns for a crown competition and went to that Jubilee party on the lawn. The weather didn’t dampen the true Great British spirit at either venue, with everyone dressed up in red, white and blue rain coats and rugs.

The only day of work on the farm was Wednesday! We are doing some much needed building repair to one of the old pig sheds and so we were quickly trying to get the new roof sheets on the old steel frame before the rain and wind got too much and the Health and Safety alarm bell in my head started ringing. We managed to get them all done and installed, with plenty of time to spare and the rest of the painting and walling will follow on smoothly this week now.

Thursday was the start of the County show season for us. The much anticipated and looked forward to Suffolk Show started on a chilly damp Thursday but the smiles of the occasion brought out the sun at times in the morning. All our family are involved in the planning of the show beforehand and during the two days. 
The Suffolk show is a great event where people far and wide come to see the best of the best that Suffolk has to offer: horses, sheep, pigs, cattle, machinery, art, crafts, clothes, cars. The list is endless and it is a great time to catch up with friends, make new ones and network with other businesses. The numbers coming through the gate were slightly down due, I think, to everyone being Jubilee’d out – and the weather! But the hardy souls that did come had a great show to look around.

I was given a very important job on Thursday. Having rescheduled my stewarding rota, I had to leave the Showground to pick up a VIP from the railway station. This was something I was looking forward to but was concerned because to get back in the Showground at 10am in the past has been very tricky due to all the extra traffic going to the site. I picked up the sponsor’s car and sat in it to find it was an automatic It then took a couple of minutes to find the automatic handbrake and how to get the car moving! I managed it and arrived in good time to await the arrival of the VIP!

The London Train was on time and my guest, the Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman MP was on board.  The Minister had been invited by the Suffolk Agricultural Association’s new President, Lord Deben, and it was her first time in attending the Suffolk Show. She had heard great things about the event and how it had retained its Agricultural background. We drove from the station and I had the opportunity to talk about the show, myself, our farm and LEAF. We managed to get back into the Show within 25 minutes and I left her to be taken round by a show organiser. She was thrilled to see the Suffolk Punches being shown in the ring as we pulled up amongst the crowd.  I do hope she enjoyed her invitation and day at the show.

The rest of Thursday went well but the weather started to deteriorate and this caused a few unexpected headaches for me as a steward and for the show organisers, but the Show must go on – or so we thought!
Friday was a different story altogether! High winds and driving rain made for a very uneasy drive to the second day at the showground. The normal pre day prep on the exhibitors’ stands was starting as we arrived at 6.30am. Patrick and I caught an early breakfast and rumours were already starting to circulate about the possibility of shutting the event down! In 181years of the Show this had never been done. To shut the show in the middle would be only done if there was a major incident or it was unsafe for people to be on site. It would take a massive call from the show committee and group of Senior Stewards but it would only be done for the right reasons.

Sure enough, that call had to be made and the gates shut at 8.15am. It was then all hands to the pump making sure everyone was told and anything not tied down was needed to be pulled down and removed as the wind picked up. The Show Committee, Showground maintenance team and all the voluntary Stewards did a tremendous job in the face of adversity. Some Exhibitors and General Public were a bit miffed by the decision but when one of the largest temporary structures on the showground: the food hall marquee, lifted up and moved, it put the day into perspective.  By midday many store holders had got their tents and gazebos down but those who hadn’t watched as one by one the wind lifted them up and rolled them over the ground or onto other stands. It was a scary place to be with 90mph gusts of wind, flying marquees and whipping ropes & tent flaps and this is why they evacuated the whole ground at 1.30pm.

It was a very sad day for all involved. Stewards and organisers described it as if they had been bereaved and were in a state of shock. Luckily no one was hurt or died and the show will be back next year bigger and stronger and possibly with a few more guy ropes on the marquees!

Our next show is Cereals, the biggest farming event of the year, followed by the Norfolk show, so fingers crossed for these events. Other than this, the farm is ticking along with the crops looking windswept but well. Sunshine is much needed from now until harvest and beyond, so, in the words of my mother when I was a little boy….’Smiles bring sunshine,’ - please get smiling and do your best for us!                                 BWB

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