Farmers ‘will need to connect more with public’, says SAA chair
- Credit: Archant
Farming will need to connect more with the public as Brexit approaches, Suffolk farmers were told this week.
Monday’s annual general meeting of Suffolk Show organisers the Suffolk Agricultural Association brought together members and the key figures involved in the show, for which preparations are already well under way.
The weather may not have been kind for the event last year, which hit gate numbers, but tradestand and sponsorship income hit record levels.
SAA chairman Robert Rous stressed the importance of such events, not only for the Suffolk people and the county’s economic success, but also as a showcase for farming.
“Farming I believe inevitably will get less automatic support and therefore will need to connect more with the public,” he told members.
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It was a shame that this year’s event had not produced a trading surplus, he said, but added that he was expecting “positive outcomes” for next year’s AGM.
Speaking in the SAA annual review, chief executive Phillip Ainsworth, who was praised by Mr Rous for the “quiet sense of competence” he had brought to the role, said the last few years had been “challenging” for the organisation.
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Mr Ainsworth, in post for a year, said that during the year the organisation had to review its costs against a “highly competitive” events market place, and reduce staffing. Members heard that its commercial Trinity Park events arm had made a loss against a backdrop of a difficult marketplace with heightened competition. “A fundamentally important issue is that, although the association is a charity, we must manage our finances effectively,” he said.
The SAA had now restructured and operated as a single team across its charitable and commercial activities, he said.
Treasurer Loudon Greenlees praised the contribution of Robert Rous as chairman, which he said had been “quite exceptional” over the last three or four years.
Bill Baker, who handed over the reins as show director to Bee Kemball, said he had been at the centre of “so much goodwill” during his three-year term running the event. “Never do a I remember calling anything up for help and anyone saying no,” he said.
“Sometimes when you have a small crisis you remember what a great association this is.”
Without the support and co-operation of so many people, from staff, to exhibitors and sponsors, they would have to scale back the offering at the show, he said.
His successor Bee was a “fantastic businesswoman” and would be a great ambassador for the event, he said.
Last year’s president, John Wall, succeeded at the AGM by president-elect the Earl of Iveagh, particularly thanked his wife for keeping him on the “strait and narrow”.
“The show was fantastic,” he said.