The penultimate week of July has for long been one of my favourite weeks of the year, writes Samuel Kurtz MS.
For some people it’s Christmas week, for others the week of their birthday, the start of the Six Nations, a time they spend on holiday or visiting loved family members.
These are rightly important times in the year, but little comes close to the joy, the elation, of my yearly pilgrimage to the show fields of Builth Wells. As a farmer’s son, it is a busman’s holiday. But there’s no other place I’d rather spend that third week in July.
Sadly, for the second year on the trot, Covid has put pay to the public attending the Royal Welsh and many other agriculture shows throughout Wales.
These shows provide a showcase for Rural Wales and our farming industry. They help develop a greater understanding of the countryside and bring focus to the efforts that are put into feeding our nation.
From now on, my attendance at these shows will be different to the past. For the first time, I will be there representing my constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire as a Member of the Senedd and as the Welsh Conservative’s Spokesman for Rural Affairs and the Welsh Language.
I’ve attended the Royal Welsh with many different hats on over the years, from competitor to commentator, reporter to spectator. But what I have always found is Wales’ rural community are as warm and welcoming as you would ever find.
Although the Royal Welsh hasn’t happened this year in its traditional format, the recent Welsh Government announcement over the relaxation of social distancing rules gives hope that some of our other local show here in West Wales – like the Pembrokeshire County Show – will still be able to go ahead.
But there is far more to these shows than just cattle, sheep, horses and tractors. These shows provide a hugely important social aspect for an industry blighted by poor mental health. It provides a shop window for the industry to build the relationship with the consumer. Shows help rural economies thrive and help keep this important industry alive.
Being involved in the industry, I learned quickly that we are very good at telling each other the importance of buying British, or how we’ve improved animal welfare or environmental standards. But we’re just not quite as good as telling Joe Public, and that is who the industry needs to convince. The industry is absolutely a force for good, despite the ill-informed ‘Monibot’ headlines. And the quicker we, and I include myself in this, can show the population why British and Welsh farming is so important, sustainable and necessary, then the sooner the appreciation for the industry will come and which it deserves.
So, when you next buy a ticket for an agricultural show, you’re not only giving the farming community the confidence it needs to thrive – but an opportunity for it to highlight why we need a strong agricultural sector now more than ever.
Samuel Kurtz is the Member of the Senedd for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire and the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs and the Welsh Language.