This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan who for eighteen years has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society. The Society is holding its 2016 Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show this coming Saturday 17th September, at Aglands Farm, (A281) Picts Lane, Cowfold, RH13 8AN.
The show celebrates our local farming and rural community with ploughing, livestock, field and domestic produce competitions. Terrier racing, livestock handling, displays by the Utility Gundog Society, tractor rides, traction engines and the Harris Fun Fair are just some of the activities on offer – fun for all the family.
Rowan is well known as a partner in H.J. Burt based in Steyning and Henfield. As a Chartered Surveyor and a Fellow of the CAAV he has strong professional and personal links with the rural and agricultural community in Sussex. I ask Rowan how long H.J. Burt has been associated with the Society and show, he replies “The Society was founded in 1871 and we’ve been involved since 1887”. He explains that the show seeks to honour and learn from the past whilst looking confidently to the future.
With people increasingly living and working in urban environments there can sometimes seem to be a lack of connection between town and country. The Society seeks to educate and make apparent how important the vital work of the farming and rural community is to our nation. It ensures that skills and development are not lost. Rowan says “Things like the young calf and lamb handling classes at the show ensure that these skills are maintained and are an opportunity to connect those of us living in towns with the rural way of life.”
I comment that I am always delighted to find how democratic and inclusive our rural communities are. Rowan agrees and adds “The farming and rural community really values the important and varied contributions people make. That’s why we make a long-service award each year to a person who has worked steadily over many years, perhaps as a tractor driver or in some other role. We honour and affirm best practice and dedication across the farming community with our awards and prizes.” He smiles and continues “There’s no harm in a bit of healthy competition and not just in the ploughing match.”
As we talk Rowan praises the contributions of all those involved in the show. He emphasises the work of all the Society’s enthusiastic Chairman over the years and not least the current Chairman, Dominic Gardner. He also acknowledges the support of the Honorary Assistant Secretary, Felicity Kensett, who is herself a farmer’s daughter and plough lady.
Rowan draws my attention to the Society’s Bursaries saying “The Society launched the Bursary Scheme three years ago to assist those keen to pursue a career in agriculture. Potential candidates need to be working in the Society’s area. Last year’s bursary winner was Chris Dare from Huddlestone Farm, near Steyning. It’s helping him to study at a Dairy Management Academy in Cheshire.” This practical approach is evident in much of the Society’s work. Rowan remarks “It’s important that we invest in and encourage another generation into agriculture and its associated industries.”
Rowan Allan is passionate about the community that he serves. The valuable gift of his professional skills and time to The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society over so many years has blessed this farming and rural community. He reflects their generous, constant qualities of stewardship and is deserving of our thanks. Thanks should also be expressed to Mr and Mrs Gordon Tregear and the South Lodge Estate for generously hosting the show this year.
The 2016 West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show is going to be a fantastic family day whether you are from town or country. Entry is just £5 per person with no charge for children under 14. For more information contact Rowan Allan at H.J. Burt via www.hjburt.co.uk or go to www.westgrinsteadploughing.co.uk.
By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.