Plough Sunday Service marks start of new farming year

British agriculture and the continued commitment of Yorkshire farming families to producing food for the nation will be celebrated at the start of the new year at Ripon Cathedral’s Plough Sunday Service, supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

All are welcome at the service on Sunday 8th January 2023 which, in time-honoured tradition, will see the blessing of the plough when the ploughshare is presented by young farmers.

The gesture is an enduring symbol of our reliance upon, and crucial relationship with, the land, and the countryside’s ability to provide sustenance under the careful stewardship of farming families and their dedicated staff.

Industry’s enduring importance

Some 71 per cent of all land in the UK is in agricultural use and accounts for a significant proportion of UK soils which currently store about 10 billion tonnes of carbon, which is roughly equal to 80 years of annual UK greenhouse gas emissions.

As well as producing nutritious food to some of the highest production and welfare standards in the world, British food and farming contributes more than £127billion GVA (Gross Value Added) to the economy and supports more than four million jobs.

Allister Nixon, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society said:

British agriculture remains acutely important to us all, from producing quality food for our plates, to the environmental management of our landscapes that benefit our wellbeing and support the natural world.

In Yorkshire, we have a proud agricultural history and it is fantastic to see those traditions continue today as farming families adopt increasingly innovative and smart approaches to modern farm businesses.

Plough Sunday is a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on the role farming plays in all our lives, and to celebrate this with members of the farming community at the start of a new year.

A service steeped in history

Plough Sunday is an ancient festival which was revived by the Victorians. Traditionally it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany.

In the Medieval period, when there was only one plough in each village, the village plough was brought into church for a blessing before ploughing began on Plough Monday, the first working day after the 12 days of Christmas.

In days when work was scarce in winter, the observance looked forward to the time of sowing with the promise of a harvest to come.

2023 service

The Plough Sunday Service at Ripon Cathedral, in collaboration with the Methodist Church, will be led by the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, with an address by The Bishop of Selby, The Right Reverend John Thomson.

Bishop Thomson is the Diocese of York’s ambassador on rural life and faith.

Dean Dobson, who will bless the ploughshare at the service, said:

This service at Ripon Cathedral is one which is always filled with joy and celebration, as we honour the contribution made to the region and nation by those engaged in agriculture. At a time when there are so many challenges facing farmers and related businesses, that joy and celebration will be particularly welcome.

Remembering that blessing the plough has always been about not taking the provision of our food for granted and acknowledging our need of God’s providence, we will pray for God’s blessing not only on the plough but on all who produce and distribute the food on which our lives are dependent.

Supporting the service

The service will be supported by members of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire , a network of farmers, vets and industry professionals at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, and the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs.

Farming charities and the Samaritans will be in attendance and will take part in the service.

A share of the proceeds from a collection will go towards the invaluable work of the Addington Fund which provides disaster relief and houses for families in England and Wales who must leave the industry and therefore their home, through no fault of their own.

There are challenges for farming businesses as new agricultural policies are introduced by the Government and the impacts of high inflation are felt.

Avian flu has brought serious consequences for those working with poultry and the pig sector has been affected by a complex range of issues, including labour shortages at food processors.

At the start of the new year, it is hoped that the Plough Sunday Service provides a timely reminder to the farming community of their collective strength and networks of support.

Anyone wishing to attend the Plough Service at Ripon Cathedral on Sunday 8th January 2023 is invited to gather from 2.30pm for hot pork rolls and drinks, before the service gets underway an hour later at 3.30pm.

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