One Zoom meeting this week was with the Charitable Activities Committee of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. This meets three times a year to plan and fund a very wide range of events and networks that support farmers and their wives and help children in Yorkshire to learn about the countryside and food production. We spend about £400,000 on this annually and about 18,000 children take part.
This year of course all this is greatly reduced; the society’s income generating activities (huge conference centre, smaller suites of meeting rooms and a caravan park) are not operational and the flagship event – the Great Yorkshire Show – has been cancelled. Only the farm shop continues but with a focus on food boxes for local families.
One of the summer treats for me and my wife is a visit to some very urban primary schools in Wakefield and Leeds to judge their vegetable boxes. Each year the Society gives them a large box, many bags of peat and some seeds and encourages the school to produce vegetables. The aim is to promote the Farm to Fork message and results are often amazing.
My wife’s particular thrill was when in one school little Seb aged 6 takes her firmly by the hand and insists on leading her around the garden showing what he has done and what he has learned from his Granddad’s allotment.
It is encouraging to see what some schools have done with bits of spare land; one school not only has chickens, ducks in a pond, a large greenhouse for pricking out seeds and plants and composting bins. Another has a very topical Victory garden and is planning to erect a dry stone wall like those in the Yorkshire dales to the north.
This year all this has ground to a halt; but the work of our committee goes on. This week we funded a farmer who wanted glass bottles to start a business of selling milk shakes, a charity for the disabled whose horses were needing feed and care since no clients could come near them, and we promised some schools basic gardening materials for when they re-opened.