The South of England Agricultural Society is celebrating its 50th year of supporting agriculture and the countryside in the South of England in 2017. Its flagship event, the South of England Show, to be held on 8, 9 and 10 June this year, has welcomed over 3.5 million visitors over the last five decades.
A registered charity founded in 1967 from a consolidation of agricultural societies going back to the 1830s, the Society works across the six counties of Berkshire, East Sussex, Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, Kent, Surrey and West Sussex. Its aims are to showcase agriculture and the countryside through annual shows and to serve the rural community by providing educational grants, awards, bursaries and scholarships for people involved in agriculture, horticulture and land based industries.
Said Charlie Burgoyne, Society Chairman, “We are delighted that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall will be our President in this important year for the Society, which will culminate in a very special South of England Show in June, celebrating the achievements of the Society over the past 50 years.”
“All year, we will be working hard to highlight the importance of farmers in today’s society -in a world where population growth threatens our food security and urban spread constantly puts our green spaces at risk. Our British farmers grow our food and are the custodians of our beautiful countryside and we aim to remind people of what an important role they continue to have in our society today.”
Throughout the year, the Society is planning to highlight its educational work, which sows the seeds to help children appreciate and understand where their food comes from and the importance of the countryside. The Society will increase its role in encouraging and supporting young people who have chosen careers in rural industries and it will continue to provide opportunities to achieve excellence through its competitions for young craftsmen, aspiring horticulturists, young farmers, foresters and all students training for careers in the countryside.
Thousands of young people have benefitted from these initiatives over the last 50 years and millions of people have been brought closer to the countryside at the Society’s shows. Since 1967, the Society has managed competitions to encourage and inspire college students and between 1983 and 2000, the Society’s unique Farmers Adopt a School project encouraged 100 farmers to adopt 116 schools, enabling pupils to visit regularly throughout each year to discover the origins of their food and how the countryside is cared for. University lecturers, teachers and members of education business partnerships have taken part in training days run by the Society to emphasise the importance of the countryside in the curriculum.
Since 2006 the annual Connect with the Countryside event has hosted 27,500 school children at the South of England Showground; 30 Nuffield Scholars have received support from the Society since 1979; 200 farming groups or couples have been given assistance by the Agricultural Eurolink Network established in 1986; and since 1974, over 13,000 farmers, landowners and agriculturalists from across the region have attended the South of England Farming Conferences.
In recognition of the late Jim Green’s contribution to the Society, the Jim Green Challenge was started in 1999 and 3,400 land based college students and adults from day centres, who have mild or moderate learning difficulties, have benefitted from this opportunity. The Society’s highly acclaimed Young Craftsman of the Year competition has seen over 3,500 student entries over the past 31 years and helped dozens of winners go on to achieve successful careers.
This year the Society has also been honoured with a gift from The Patron’s Fund, the £750,000 fund set up to acknowledge the work of the charitable organisations for which Her Majesty, The Queen acts as a Patron, on the occasion of her 90th birthday, from the proceeds of The Patron’s Lunch on the Mall last June. This will be used to support the 2017 Connect with the Countryside school children’s event in July.
For more information on the South of England Agricultural Society, its annual shows and educational programme, visit www.seas.org.uk