GYS Review – Our Charitable Activities

The Great Yorkshire Show is a great opportunity for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to pursue and promote its charitable aims: to support and promote farming families and British agriculture, and inspire the next generation about all things farming, food and the countryside.

And the 164th Show, held on 11-14th July 2023, was no different. Our Charitable Activities team orchestrated unique opportunities for farmers and young people.

Here’s a round up of what our Farming Networks and Education teams got up to at this year’s Show.

Launch of new Innovation Zone and GYS Innovation Award

High-tech modern farming and the latest agricultural innovations were showcased at the 164th Great Yorkshire Show in a brand-new Innovation Zone, organised and hosted by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farmer Scientist Network.

The Innovation Zone informed visitors about how farmland is carefully managed in new ways for food production, offering displays, demonstrations and daily ‘Tea & Tech’ talks – read a summary here.

The newly renamed GYS Innovation Award, previously known as the White Rose What’s Next Award and sponsored by the Institution of Engineering and Technology was presented in the Innovation Zone on the Tuesday.

The winner was Neil Fell of NR Fell, who has invented a mobile, hydraulic sheep dipper that is delivering massive productivity gains whilst improving animal and farmer welfare and reducing the environmental impact of dipping – read more.

Top level discussions

The Future Farmers of Yorkshire made the most of the Great Yorkshire Show.

The YAS-supported network hosted its ever-popular GYS Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday morning where the topic of building resilient farm businesses was examined with a fantastic panel of farming guests – read the report here.

Members of Future Farmers also met with political figures, including Farming Minister Mark Spencer (pictured above, centre), DEFRA Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey and Shadow DEFRA Minister Jim McMahon to raise pertinent industry issues at a time of great change, challenge and opportunity across farming sectors.

Among the topics covered were: food security, the future of support payments, post-16 education, rising input costs, bovine TB policy, carbon footprint and animal welfare food labelling, the impact of cheap food imports produced to lower animal welfare standards and labour shortages.

Future Farmer Duncan Berkshire, who was part of the conversations with all three of the politicians, said:

It’s been an awesome opportunity and shows that Future Farmers is going from strength to strength, not only by getting in front of the top brass who are meant to have more of a say on policy, but the fact that they are prioritising Future Farmers as a group of people to talk to.

Date with the President

NFU President Minette Batters (pictured above, centre) kindly made time in her busy schedule at the Great Yorkshire Show to discuss topical issues with members of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Women In Farming Network.

The roundtable discussion covered a wide range of topics, from government funding for educational access visits to farms and making it easier for farms to host student work experience placements, to access to finance, gaining employment in the industry as a new entrant and improving knowledge exchange about innovative farming technology.

Fiona Macdonald, Coordinator of the Women In Farming Network said:

We are enormously grateful to Minette for being so generous with her time by taking the time to engage with our members about all sorts of industry concerns and burning topics.

It is important that the voices of farming families are heard and their concerns listened to and represented in discussions with policymakers and, as Minette reflected in our discussions, a lot will follow if food production is rightly made a national priority.

Summer Social

An informal gathering of the Women In Farming Network saw members come together in the spirit of friendship, support and celebration at a Summer Social in the Members Lounge of the Great Yorkshire Show on the Wednesday, hosted by the Network’s Coordinator Fiona Macdonald.

This was a great opportunity for members to catch up with each other, swap Show stories and forge new connections.

A strong Yorkshire contingent was also joined by female farmers from Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Inspiring the next generation

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s School Veg Box Competition culminated in a grand finale at the Show on the Wednesday when the 12 finalists were judged by horticulturalists from RHS Harlow Carr.

Each year, the Society invites primary schools across Yorkshire to take part in this grow-your-own competition, with children starting their growing projects with a flat pack box and seeds.

The results are lush and colourful veg boxes and growing diaries to chart the children’s learning journeys.

Winners of the competition this year were Year 6 children from Mill Hill Community Primary School in Northallerton, pictured above – read our wrap up of the finale here.

The finalists’ veg boxes were displayed in the Show’s Discovery Zone, where all the free, fun and hands-on activities to entertain and educate families and children about farming, food and the countryside were subsidised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

And children’s creativity was also demonstrated with entries to our My Great Yorkshire Countryside competition.

School pupils were invited to share what they think is great about the Yorkshire countryside in the form of artwork, poems, photographs or short stories, and the winner was Alfie Harbron, aged 13, of Graham School, Scarborough.

Alfie’s poem reads:

Rolling hills and fields of green,

The countryside’s a peaceful scene,

With babbling brooks and rustling trees,

And buzzing bees and gentle breeze.


The sky above is wide and blue,

And fluffy clouds drift into views.

As birds take flight and soar up high,

Against the backdrop of the sky,


In the distance, a church bell chimes,

As grazing sheep enjoy their time,

And farmers work the land below,

Tending to their crops and livestock glow.


The countryside is a place of calm,

Where nature’s beauty is a balm,

And where we can find some piece of mind,

Leaving the hustle of the world behind.

Hosting local decision makers

The Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network hosted Councillor Leo Hammond, Cabinet and Portfolio Holder for Planning, Communities and Public Protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The visit included speaking with farmers from East Yorkshire, and representatives of Bishop Burton College, British Pig Association, CLA, NFU, and FixOurFood Programme.

Main themes of discussion included food security, energy infrastructure, rural crime, rented housing legislation and blockers with planning for farm businesses along with potential solutions.

The Network also hosted an Environmental Land Management Update with Janet Hughes, Director of the Farming and Countryside Programme at DEFRA.

This overview gave a great opportunity for farmers to ask questions about the latest round of changes and the new 2023 Sustainable Farming Incentive agreements.

A key issue raised with DEFRA was including second hand ‘refurbished and recertified’ as part of the Capital Grant 2023 guidelines in the future.

Giving our members a say

As a farming charity, our support for farming families and agriculture can take many forms, so at the Great Yorkshire Show we asked members of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society what our top priorities should be, and the results are in:

  • Projects to investigate issues of concern to farmers in the North, and providing solutions
  • Offering more farm visits
  • Supporting mental health and wellbeing, and agricultural career guidance

Thank you to all our members who had their say. Your answers are invaluable was we plot our future activities.

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