Meeting the team who make The Dorset County Show a huge success
PUBLISHED: 12:47 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:47 04 September 2014
The Dorset County Show is the highlight of the county calendar, finishing the summer holidays off with a rural flourish. We meet some of the team who make this popular event such a huge success
Let’s go to the Dorset County Show!
The Dorset County Show takes place on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th September at the Dorchester Showground (DT2 7SD) a mile outside Dorchester. Tickets cost £12 in advance (£15 on the gate) and all under 16s go free. Tickets also available from local Tourist Information Centres. For more information visit dorsetcountyshow.co.uk for further information or call 01305 264249.
With thanks to Kingston Maurward College, Dorset’s college of the countryside, for the use of their tractor, barn and beautiful farm for our photo shoot. More details at kmc.ac.uk 01305 215000.
Sam Mackenzie-Green - Show Secretary
Sam Mackenzie-Green describes being the Dorset County Show Secretary as her ‘dream job’. She moved to Dorset with her husband in 2001 and saw the post advertised in the local paper. “Coming from an equine events background it was the perfect job for me. It involves organising all aspects of the Dorset County Show from attractions and trade stands to sponsors and judges. I work with over ten committees, each organise their own sections of the Show, and around 250 voluntary stewards whose commitment and enthusiasm is really inspiring.”
Although Sam went to agricultural college her background is more horsey than agricultural. “I’ve ridden from a young age and competed in eventing, showing, dressage, show jumping and also hunted with the Cattistock. My mother-in-law owns a farm in Beaminster and I enjoy riding around the fields throughout the season.”
When it comes to discussing the state of British farming Sam is particularly concerned about the impact TB is having. “It’s very sad to see farmers shut down due to the disease and the stress that comes with the constant testing of the animals. Every year there are regular competitors who are unable to show their cattle due to a shut down.”
Over the Show weekend Sam describes her role as being “mainly in crisis management though we try not to have any of those. I ensure everyone has everything they need and I keep a look out for anything we might improve the following year.
“I love the fact that everyone has their ‘favourite’ part of the Show, for some it’s the rabbits, for others it’s the cider, or maybe the Main Ring but everyone loves something different and that’s what makes the Dorset County Show such a special day out.”
Jamie Cox - Puddletown Young Farmer and Show Assistant
Jamie comes from a long-established and large Dorset farming family headed up by his dad Wakely. “All of my dad’s side of the family farm around the Puddletown area. This includes my brothers, cousins and uncles. I’m also a member of Puddletown Young Farmers. To be honest the majority of the Puddletown Club is made up of the Cox family.” he laughs.
Jamie has just completed a Business Course at Kingston Maurward College and this is his second summer working in the Dorset County Show office although he has been involved with the show for a lot longer.
“Around ten years ago my dad, who is the current Vice Chairman, was the Ground Chairman. I used to help him by stapling the trade stand names to the posts. I then progressed to showing traders to their pitches. The County Show always ended my school summer holiday on a high. A low was one muddy year when my brother drove past in a tractor covering my white show shirt in mud.”
In the Show Office Jamie deals with day to day enquires, correspondence and social media.
“I love the lead up to the big weekend, the excitement of moving the office to the showground on the Friday before is unreal. If I can I pop out to watch Titan the robot – it’s definitely up there for the best attraction.”
Graham Murgatroyd - Ground Chairman
Graham’s life is ruled by the elements of fire and water. He has two businesses - aquatic engineering and running a forge for blacksmithing. This gives him a wealth of experience to draw on as Ground Chairman, a role which is all about bringing all the Show logistics together. “This can range from liaising with the contractors responsible for erecting the marquees and installing VIP loos to bringing the livestock in safely and smoothly.” He is also in charge of the all important traffic management, whatever the British weather throws at him. “Keeping the ground from getting churned up the day before the Show opens is difficult to achieve if it’s been raining.
“We can’t let any cars and tractors onto the grass if it’s wet. We have to be firm to keep the ground firm.”
During the actual Show weekend, Graham describes his role as ‘trouble shooter’. From his ‘Tower of Power’ - a raised office with a bird’s eye view of the showground - he can spot potential problems and deal with them. “While the crowds are having a great time, I could be dealing with an overflowing toilet block or a power failure,” he says, adding that he is particularly impressed by the team spirit shown by volunteers at the Show. “I’ve got the most fantastic group of people working with me who do it purely and simply for the love of the Show.”
If he was off-duty Graham’s says his first port of call would be the Beer Tent, “although I’m not allowed to go there on duty,” he laughs. “Instead I nip up to the Dorset Food Hall and grab a locally made venison burger.“ By Sunday night I’m wiped out. Traditionally, we all go out for a curry in Dorchester. Last year, I fell asleep at the table and started snoring. Sam, the Show Secretary, very kindly bundled me into a cab and sent me home!”
Sally Mitchell – Cattle Show Commentator
As part of a Dorset farming family Sally had always wanted to work in agriculture. After graduating from Reading University she returned to Dorset and started as a farm clerk before taking her exams to become a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. As an Associate Partner with Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Sally works as an Agricultural Surveyor and Auctioneer out of their Dorchester office.
“Part of my job is as a livestock auctioneer dealing with farm sales and valuations of pedigree and commercial dairy and beef cattle.”
Her experience in this area really helps with her role as commentator for the cattle section at Show.
Sally’s job is incredibly varied, combining land management with livestock as well as dealing with land owners and tenants. With such a broad spectrum of rural businesses she also has a good understanding about the state of British farming. “The main issue is the extreme fluctuation in prices for produce which is exacerbated by the hold that the major retailers have over the industry, though I think farmers are getting better at working together to improve their position,” she adds. “Whilst there is room in the industry for the larger scale farming operations, it is still important that the smaller family farms are kept going. We need that knowledge gained from generations of farmers farming the land and we must keep communities in the rural areas of the county.”
Sally admits that she has always had a soft spot for the County Show, which she describes as the final hurrah of the summer before autumn takes hold.
“As a family we have been showing Hereford cattle at the show for as long as I can remember, the Show is also a great place to catch up with people.”
Tom Bartlett, Dorset County Show President
This is the third year that Tom has been the Dorset County Show President, although he has been involved with it for some 30 years.
During this time he has steered the County Show through some challenging situations such as in 2001 when, as Chairman, the decision had to be taken to cancel due to Foot and Mouth.
As a cattle farmer based in Portesham, Tom has two sides to his business. The first is a beef suckler herd which includes Herefords and Limousin. “Suckler cattle produce good quality lean meat which is what consumers want nowadays. I sell a lot to my local pub, the King’s Arms.” The other side of his business is Store Cattle where he finishes animals for beef that have been reared on other farms.
Cattle farming runs in the Bartlett family. Tom’s son Martin works with him and he hopes his 8-year-old grandson, Henry, will follow in their footsteps. “Henry will be leading a Limousin heifer in the cattle classes at the Dorset County Show this year,” he says proudly.
Tom has noticed that the number of beef cattle being shown at Dorset County has gone up over the years and correspondingly the number of dairy cattle has gone down. “Many of the smaller dairies have gone out of business or been sold out to the big dairies. Those who do have small businesses just don’t have time to do the shows.”
As President of the Show Tom is its ambassador and he represents and promotes the Show in every area of his life. “I love every aspect of the Show. I particularly like the Home Craft Tent. I’m always astounded by the lengths people go to. I don’t know how they can put together floral arrangements together so quickly and expertly.”
Simon Grant-Jones, Blacksmith
Simon is a part-time lecturer at Kingston Maurward College and a full-time professional blacksmith, specialising in tool making for specialist craftspeople such as stone masons, thatchers, green woodworkers, coppice craftsmen and hedge layers, to name but a few. “Tools such as thatchers shearhooks and various green woodworking tools can only be bought from a craftsman such as myself.”
Working out of his forge at Kingston Mauward, Simon is able to draw on years of experience working with specialist professions and pass on his knowledge and expertise to the other potential blacksmiths he teaches. “Hopefully I inspire them to pursue what is a very rewarding profession.”
Simon is a freeman of the City of London, a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and most importantly an Associate and Licentiate of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. “That means I am a recognised teacher of the trade,” he adds proudly.
As Chief Steward for the Dorset County Show heat of the National Blacksmiths Competition, Simon organises and runs the competition with the help of his team of stewards.
“Most competitors say our show is one of the friendliest on the circuit. The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths always send a delegation from London to present prizes.”
Because Simon is busy running the competition he rarely gets further than the Countryside area of the showground, but he doesn’t mind. “This area is what makes a typical country show like the Dorset County so popular. We should never lose sight of the fact that the British Empire was built on craftsmanship and the ability for craftspeople to produce decorative and functional items. It’s what made Britain great.”
Rick Rogers, Dorset County Show Chairman
Rick is an arable farmer, largely growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and linseed at his farm at Muckleford, just outside Dorchester, where he lives with Rosemary and their younger son George. “Every day I wake up, look out over the balcony and feel privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the world,” says Rick, with a broad smile. “In the winter, I feel even more privileged not to have to get up at the crack of dawn and do things like milk cows!”
This year’s harvest has been a good one. “The weather’s been kind to us so there were no drying costs. Apart from the linseed which isn’t fit yet and some organic barley which is always late, harvest was finished in record time. The last time I can remember such an early harvest was the drought year of ’76 when after August 4th we spent the rest of the summer on the beach.”
Rick has been involved with Dorset County Show for as long as he can remember, “It’s sort of part of my life. My father was Chairman when I was a kid and it was very much a part of my youth.” Rick has followed in his father’s footsteps and this is his second year as Chairman of Dorset County Show. “Now, at my ripe old age, my time has finally come. I just love the Show. There’s just so much enthusiasm from everyone involved, I think that Dorset people really live and breathe this Show.”
The morning of Show day is both daunting and exciting for Rick and his team. Will the weather be kind? Will Titan the Robot upset more people than he impresses? Will the thousands of animals behave themselves?
“This year I’m looking forward to seeing the Bolddog Lings - the amazing motorcycle display team. I saw them at Goodwood Festival of Speed a few years ago and was so impressed that I persuaded them to come to the Dorset County. They recently appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and impressed Simon Cowell - not an easy thing to do. I’ll be abandoning my duties temporarily to be ringside for at least one of their performances. You really should not miss them, you will be amazed!”
Carol and Harriet Besent – A Farming Family
Carol and her daughter Harriet (Harri) farm 700 acres, mostly as tenants, on the Woodhouse Estate at Higher Melcombe Farm. “We are dairy and arable farmers,” says Carol. “My other daughters, Georgina and Katy, help out on the farm when they are home.” Georgina is a teacher in Rutland and Katy is currently on her gap year in Canada working on a bison farm in Manitoba. “This is a true family farm. Nearly every member of the family is involved in farming. When you cut us you get tractor oil not blood,” laughs Carol.
As a farmer’s daughter from Wiltshire, Carol helped on the family farm, but when she was 24 she married Michael and moved to his farm in Dorset. “We had a strong partnership and I was actively involved. When Michael died five years ago Wakely Cox and his family helped out with the running of the farm, until Harri finished at Uni.”
“I have wanted to be a farmer my whole life,” says Harri. “I gained a degree in Agriculture from Newcastle University and returned to work on the family farm four years ago.
“It’s a great industry to be in. One minute you’re discussing animal nutrition the next you’re ploughing or combining.”
Harri says that over recent years British farmers have become very resilient. “There has been a big change towards making money in more diverse ways from ice-cream and wedding barns to buffalo burgers. The traditional idea of the farmer with a flat cap and straw in his mouth is long gone. The modern farmer is much more of a businessman or woman.”
For many years Harri’s father Michael was a steward on the cattle lines and his three daughters used to show their Highland calves in the Children’s Calf Class. “Dad was about to be Vice Chairman of the Cattle Committee when he died,” says Harri. “I was asked to take his place on the Committee.”
For both mother and daughter the County Show is an integral part of their Dorset summer. “It’s such a friendly show, with lots of support from all the local farmers, without whom it would not be possible to run,” says Carol. “It also enables the general public to come closer to our farming lives.”