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The start of show season!

Early, early golden mornings and late violet-sky nights – summer in Scotland. The weather

hasn’t been exactly blissful so far, but the arrival of summer heralds the start of show

season: in most farmer’s calendars, there’s always a day or two set aside for presenting,

judging, and celebrating animals, produce and good practice, with a healthy dose of

socialising and a dance thrown in, at a local or national agricultural show.

Dating back to the 1800’s, agricultural shows are where tradition, innovation, commerce

and recreation come together, giving people the opportunity to explore and appreciate the

diversity of rural life and the wider value of the rural economy. And year after year, people

flock to agricultural shows – as the interest in rural living grows, they attract ever increasing

numbers of visitors.

This year is the 200 th anniversary of the Royal Highland Show, in Ingliston, near Edinburgh. It

is the largest annual agricultural show in Scotland, with over 1000 exhibitors, 4,500 head of

livestock and an expected 200 000 visitors. It’s an exciting – and daunting – prospect, being

one of those 1000 exhibitors, but small businesses like mine are an important part of the

rural economy, and, from a different perspective, I am following in a long tradition of

stubborn, creative farmer’s wives who can’t make jam but still like to be involved.

From 200 000 visitors to 200 – our local show, on the 16 July, also attracts visitors,

exhibitors, and a spirit of competition to rival the space race. Farmers from the island and

the mainland will gather to show cattle, sheep, poultry and dogs, and a huge variety of

baking, preserves and handicrafts. It’s a day of festivity and pride in the results of the hard

work that goes into this ‘rural idyll’ that really is such incredibly hard work sometimes, and

often very light on the ‘idyll’. It is a day of community and delight in ourselves and our island


It is a life that few farmers would change, but that every farmer has cursed at some point,

and although it can seem, at these shows, that the idea of a ‘farming life’ is something to be

marketed, packed up and sold as a tweed coat, jar of jam, deer-horn buttons or even a bar

of soap, it isn’t that simple. Farming is getting up at dawn; it is going out in the rain, frost,

and snow; it is mourning the loss of each lamb and each field to the weather, or crows, or

bad luck. It is something more than ‘something you were born to’. It is also something the

media can’t seem to decide on – either berating and demonising the farming industry, or

polishing it up and sanitising an overpriced 40 acres with a cheeky personality who can’t

drive a tractor and an interest in rare breeds.

But for the most part, farming is also the best kind of life, worth preserving and celebrating.

It is part of our heritage and culture, and part of our future, and agricultural shows bring this

to together, for everyone.

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