Farming feature: Charity behind Suffolk Show goes from strength to strength
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk Agricultural Association members were jubilant this week as the farming charity celebrated an impressive improvement in financial performance across the board.
A hugely successful, sun-blessed Suffolk Show last year was underpinned by business improvements which led to a stunning turnaround for its events arm, Trinity Park Events Ltd (TPEL), they were told at the SAA annual general meeting on Monday, February 19.
Highlights included near record crowds of 91,300 at the show, which made nearly £578,000 after direct costs are taken out, in spite of increasing costs.
Meanwhile, TPEL saw a significant uplift in fortunes, converting a loss in 2016 of nearly £86,000, into an operating profit of nearly £36,000 in 2017.
Overall, the organisation overall came within a whisker of its goal of breaking even, with an operating deficit of just £7k before investment returns are taken into account.
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It was a fitting finale for longstanding treasurer Loudon Greenlees who announced his intention to retire from the voluntary position.
Past chair Robert Rous’s role in the current success of the organisation was acknowledged when he was presented with a framed portrait of his beloved cocker spaniel.
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Current chair David Nunn said Robert had presided over a period of immense change and a restructuring of the governance of the charity, and had effectively been the organisation’s CEO over a period when there was a changeover of chief executives in quick succession. He presented him with a picture of his faithful cocker spaniel.
“We changed over halfway through the year, so we have not had the opportunity to thank you,” said Mr Nunn. “You clearly, I believe, left this organisation in a much stronger position than you found it - thank you very much.”
Baroness Byford, whose family on late husband, Barrie’s, side has farmed at 860 acre Slough Farm, Acton, for six generations, was voted in as president.
She succeeds the Earl of Iveagh, who chaired the AGM, and president-elect this year will be long-serving SAA member Stephen Miles, who said it was “huge privilege” to have been chosen for the role.
Working peer Baroness Byford, who lives in Leicestershire, has always taken a keen interest in farming matters and continues to bring her knowledge to bear in her role in the House of Lords, where she has served for 21 years, initially as a whip. Soon after, she took up the agricultural brief, which she held until 2008 when she gave it up for health reasons.
“We had foot-and-mouth, swine fever, RPA (Rural Payments Agency) payments, bills on animal welfare and animal health and really, it has been a really big part of my life to try and raise the practicalities,” she said.
“At the moment, we have got the changes coming with the Brexit Bill. I took part in the debate on the 25 year Environmental Plan. We have got a Farming Bill coming,” she added. “It’s going to be a very busy year for me this year in parliament.”
She was also president of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) for 10 years, and sees balancing food production and long-term care of the environment as a priority. “It’s very much a balance - to me it’s not a conflict,” she said.
Although she wasn’t aware of the choice beforehand, she was delighted at this year’s decision to use the Suffolk Punch heavy horse in promotional material for this year’s show, as her family’s Suffolk farm had a long association with the breed, with its horses winning a number of historic accolades.
“Horses have always been my love,” she said.
Some of the SAA’s most faithful servants - Robert Rous, Stephen Fletcher and John Wall - were rewarded with a coveted accolade when they became honorary life vice presidents of the organisation.
“It goes without saying Robert Rous, we’ll always ben indebted for his contribution over a number of years,” he said. “How fitting it is that he sits here today hearing the results of his work.”
Lord Iveagh proposed a vote of thanks to past show director Bill Baker, present one, Bee Kemball, and her deputy, James Blyth.
Mr Baker was presented with a framed photograph of his meeting with Prince Harry at the show in recognition of the work he did during what was a period of upheaval for the SAA.
“It’s now over to Bee who’s doing a fantastic job as we know. I’m delighted to have been part of the transformation,” he said.