Suffolk: Agricultural association celebrates year of support from existing and new sponsors

Chris Bushby getting ready for the launch of the 2013 Suffolk Show

Chris Bushby getting ready for the launch of the 2013 Suffolk Show - Credit: Archant

Chris Bushby, executive director at Suffolk Agricultural Association, reflects on the year that’s gone, and the year about to begin

It’s that time of year when people begin to reflect on the year that has gone, as well as look forward to what the New Year may hold.

At the association it has been a year that saw our sponsorship levels at the show reach the highest ever at £148,000 and new companies and businesses wanting to work in partnership with us on our other events. All tradestands were booked and livestock and equine reached good numbers.

The second agricultural awards dinner attracted 300 guests, three new sponsors, who had seen coverage of the 2012 event in the press, and acknowledged and recognised some of the fantastic farming practices and diversification enterprises around the region. We were delighted to reward first generation farmers Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses as winners of both Best Alternative Land Enterprise (BALE) and class 1 of the Suffolk Farming Business competition and also welcome Jason onto our Schools Farm and Country Fair Committee. This event reached a milestone in April when in its 13th year more than 50,000 seven to nine-year-olds had attended and every child at a Suffolk school had received the invitation to attend.

This is vital work – connecting children at a early age to where and how their food is produced in Suffolk, enabling them to experience at first hand cooking, chopping, grinding, kneading, composting, making honey, to interact and get their hands dirty. The new Suffolk Farming School of the Year competition launched in the spring with the theme of sheep caught the imagination of 45 primary schools and gave the show committee the incredible task of selecting winners.

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The subsequent coursework compiled during another hands-on activity day and finally presentations and cooking under guidance from Emma Haines of Cook with Me Kids in the finals held in the Farminanglia marquee at the show demonstrated the hunger for these fun, strongly interactive means of learning.

As an association striving to deliver education programmes in the way children need to learn we are examining various future opportunities and actively seeking partners to work with us on developing and funding these. The schools careers day on Hollow Trees Farm celebrated not just its fifth anniversary in 2013, but also success in introducing the many and varied skills required across the food and farming sector to young pupils aged 13-16 at a critical stage in their schooling – making subject choices.

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Thanks to sponsorship from the Chadacre Agricultural Trust for enabling this event. Our research shows that following this day many of these young people are considering a career in agricultural-related businesses where nationally 10,000 new entrants are needed annually. More than 75% of those interested said they would like to be mentored by an industry professional. As an association we are examining the best way to action this.

Education extends out of the classroom to those older than school age. The spring agricultural conference targeted farmer members who heard ways of creating resilient farms that can weather the storms, be they meteorological, environmental or commodities related. The autumn horticultural conference with a top class line up of internationally acclaimed speakers focusing on trees attracted its biggest ever attendance, all eager to learn and be inspired.

As a charity we are dependent on sponsors, but also have a lot to give in partnership. The Business Development Committee again hosted the second international polo in Suffolk, this year benefiting from the generous support of James Hopkins of Hopkins Homes. The Hurlingham Polo Association has given the go-ahead for a third event and the Hopkins International Polo will be held on Sunday June 29, 2014. The inaugural SAA Charity Golf Day to generate funding for the School Farm and Country Fair raised more than £3800 through supporters and entries are now open for another on April 1, 2014.

Looking forward to an exciting 2014 plans are well under way for the Suffolk Show. Ring acts are confirmed and various new opportunities identified for potential sponsors, including news of a new livestock and equine supporters club. We really believe that the new offer of children 14 and under attending free of charge, coupled with access for dogs, will make it a truly family-focused event.So in the New Year if you are considering marketing budgets do call Sue Bennitt on 01473 707112 to discuss the opportunities to work with us on our activities.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas, healthy and prosperous New Year and will leave the last word to one of our sponsors Ian Webster, Partner, agricultural team, Larking Gowen: “The Suffolk Show is a great opportunity to catch-up with clients, old and new, in a relaxed environment. The event itself is a fantastic showcase of the agriculture sector and is why Larking Gowen, as agricultural specialists, are so keen to support it.”

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