Suffolk Agricultural Association column: That indefinable Prince Harry factor

George Harris as senior steward of sheep with HRH Prince Harry and the Suffolks at this year�s Show.

George Harris as senior steward of sheep with HRH Prince Harry and the Suffolks at this year�s Show. - Credit: Archant

It is hard to believe that it was barely a month ago that on the day prior to the Suffolk Show opening its gates, our team of volunteer stewards and contractors were working through the night to dry out carpets in marquees, pull and push vehicles off the site to ensure everything could go ahead after the year of planning. But the free-draining land did just that and the sun came out and what a two days it was, writes Bill Baker now drawing breath after his first year as show director.

The team spirit that shone through before the gates opened was as warm as the atmosphere on May 28 and 29 and the sentiments conveyed in subsequent emails and letters sent to the Association.

Thank you to all of you who supported in so many ways and made it such a success and to those who have told us how much you enjoyed it and appreciated the many changes. It is evident that our dramatic move to allow children aged 14 and under in for free paid off. The gates felt busy, but we are still reconciling attendance figures. Thank you to the families who wrote and said there was so much to do in one day and their children had loved touching the animals, talking to their owners and climbing on the agricultural machinery! The support through the social media has been unprecedented with Twitter followers already looking forward to 2015.

It will always be difficult to assess the “Prince Harry factor” but there was no doubt that he created a huge buzz and excitement, especially when he presented the prize to Saxmundham Primary, the winners of the Suffolk Farming School of the Year Competition.

The new Farm Discovery Zone really achieved what it set out to do and was constantly filled with people having a go at the activities and learning more about food and farming.

People often ask what happens after the show. Researching ring displays for two years’ time, carrying out rigorous debriefs and discussing how we can make improvements for next year are high on the agenda when my show committee meets this week.

I also need to publicly thank my deputy show director Mike Warner and his wife Nicola for all their help and support and welcome my new deputy East Bergholt farmer George Harris.

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Mark your diaries now May 27 and 28, 2015.

George steps into deputy’s role:

Fourth generation farmer George Harris is no stranger to the “show scene” or quickly getting up to speed in new roles!

A former director of Hadleigh Show in 1985 and 1994, and a former chairman, he first stewarded at the Suffolk Show in 1979, while working for Chris Miles in Coddenham. His grandfather had introduced a pedigree herd of Charolais to the farm which the family had shown, so George was experienced in cattle and stayed for 10 years until he was invited to start the Art Show in 1990. Enjoying attending art exhibitions, but admitting that as an arable farmer he had little knowledge, he sourced local artists whose work sold well and the area has become a successful show feature. In 2000 he was asked to become senior steward for sheep with Robert Long. He has never owned a sheep!

Unfortunately that was the year that foot-and-mouth disease cancelled the show and the now phenomenally successful School Farm and Country Fair was conceived. George was invited to join the committee and helped develop the concept which he enjoyed. Even now he meets parents in his village who say how much their children have benefited from the event. His two local schools are frequent visitors to the farm, appreciating the chance to be close to the 40 suckler cows and calves and see the machinery he uses now on the predominantly arable farm.

As the senior steward of sheep for over 12 years, he says little has changed. The Suffolk breed that once dominated has decreased and longwool and native breeds emerged, which he attributes mainly to the rise in hobby farmers. His highlights include the Southdowns chosing to host their breed society meeting at the 2013 show, as well as being presented to the Princes Royal and HRH Prince Harry.

As for his new role he says he is “very honoured and privileged.”I am looking forward to seeing and understanding the internal workings of the show and helping uphold all the show and the agricultural association stands for in our region,” he said.

Away from the farm, which is now run by son James, the former hockey player for Colchester and Ipswich is a keen cyclist, participating in the Suffolk Sunrise 100 as well as the London Prudential ride raising money for St Elizabeth Hospice.

Diary Dates:

Sunday June 29: Hopkins International Polo, Trinity Park. Play starts at 11.30, teams from England and Wales go head to head. A great family day out, all children 14 and under enter free. For details and tickets visit

November 14-16: Flavours Christmas Food and Drink Festival, Trinity Park. Brand new event full of culinary and food inspiration and gift ideas. www.trinityparkevents/whatson