The Devon County Show in 1952 was a special one! It was held in conjunction with the Royal Show, which meant a move from its traditional May-time dates to the first week in July, and it was attended by Her Majesty The Queen, in what was her first major agricultural engagement, following her accession in February of that year.
The County Show was staged in Stover Park, a few miles north of Newton Abbot, and a fascinating Pathe newsreel film shows Her Majesty being taken around the showground by that year’s President of the Devon County Agricultural Association, Brigadier Sir Ralph Rayner, MBE, who – by another happy coincidence – was the father of the 2011 DCAA President, Ranulf Rayner.
Farming was a very different industry in those days. Devon had almost twice as many farms, yet only about half of the number of cows and sheep, and there were still over 13,000 horses to provide much of the power on the land. Yet there were similarities as well. In 1952, the post-war campaign to produce more food at home, so as to reduce Britain’s almost fatal - as it had been during the war - dependence on imports, was in full swing. The Ministry of Agriculture planted up part of the showground with trial plots of cereals, and there was a grassland demonstration as well, showing worn-out permanent pasture, with a signboard reading “grass like this could be ploughed and re-seeded to productive leys.
There won’t be trial plots of cereals at the 2012 Devon County Show, but farmers are once more being encouraged to produce more food from our own resources, as global demand soars, and there will once again be grassland demonstration plots – planted by Mole Valley Farmers as part of their ‘Forage for Profit’ initiative – to show farmers how to make the most of what is still Devon’s most important crop. To that extent, the wheel has come full circle.
Written by Anthony Gibson, OBE, who is part of the County Show’s marketing team.