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Future proofing A&P shows

Future proofing A&P shows

Opinion: from the editor

It's A&P show season again, my absolute favourite time of the year.

A&P shows are more than just a great family day out; they are an opportunity to showcase all that is great about New Zealand's primary industry.

So often, we talk about the urban-rural divide and how our urban population has lost touch with farming and our agricultural heritage.

I have tried to get the good farming stories out into the world over the years, but I often feel like we are preaching to the converted.

Reaching the urban demographic and fixing the disconnect the general population has to food and fibre those that produce it remains a constant challenge to our sector.

While they not be a complete fix, A&P shows are one tool we can use to tackle that challenge.

A&P societies, which originated in Britain, were initially more like farmer lobby groups with an educative arm.

That changed at the start of the 20th century when the Farmers Union took over the lobbying, and the Department of Agriculture oversaw education.

This left A&P societies to focus on shows, and since then, shows have evolved, with each area hosting an event with a distinctly local flavour, and the idea of bringing the country to town grew wings.

Each A&P show provides an opportunity to educate, inspire, and tell our story to a captive and willing urban audience.

It's a chance to engage the younger generation, both rural and urban, and highlight the many varied pathways into a career in primary industry.

It's an opportunity to showcase the most exciting and innovative agri-technology.

Unfortunately, it's an opportunity that is in danger of being lost.

So many A&P shows are struggling due to a lack of volunteers and the next generation's disinterest in carrying the baton forward.

Part of the problem lies in the very nature of A&P shows, the core thing that makes them unique –tradition.

Tradition is both a blessing and a curse.

The tradition of shows is about our agricultural heritage, something of which we should be very proud.

But often, this can translate into an unwillingness to embrace change and give the next generation some ownership, something essential for future-proofing these iconic and cherished events.

The next generation of farmers coming through the ranks are vibrant, future-focused and passionate.

If you have any doubt about that, then take a look at the recent FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest and the caliber of entrants.

If shows are to remain relevant, if they are to survive and be utilised as a key tool in battling the negative farming narrative, we have to be willing to let the next generation put their own stamp on these events.

by Claire Inkson