Ag shows help rebuild struggling social fabric in rural towns

Ag shows help rebuild struggling social fabric in rural towns


Life & Style
James Cleaver says it is sometimes easy to forget the opportunities agricultural shows offer rural communities.

James Cleaver says it is sometimes easy to forget the opportunities agricultural shows offer rural communities.

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RAS Rural Ambassador James Cleaver writes about the opportunities, experiences and benefits the show network offers communities.

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I'm a movie buff and I'm a sucker for a rom-com on an anxious Sunday night before the start of a working week.

My favourites are the stereotypical boy meets girl, they become friends and it takes this young man 130 minutes of film to work out that everything he ever wanted, was right in front of his eyes the whole time.

With my role at the Department of Primary Industries as a rural support worker, I often hear some recurring themes throughout our rural communities; that our small rural towns and their social fabric are struggling; that we're sick of drought and need a reason to get off farm; or that we don't promote our agricultural industry to our urban counterparts.

They're all common themes and they all need addressing.

But first let me take you back to April, when I was introduced to agricultural shows at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Unbeknown to me, I was about to become part of something that's bigger than Ben Hur.

You see, some of our shows existed before our rural towns were even established.

Take my local show society for example, then named 'Nyngan Pastoral, Agricultural and Horticultural Association', which was first established in 1880 - this was a long 11 years before the town of Nyngan was even proclaimed.

Without the negative connotations - it's been like joining the mafia; I've become part of the "la familia".

As RAS Councillor Ellen Downes recently remarked at the annual ShowSkills Seminar, "you are part of a show family; they will take you under their wing, they will embrace you, and that's incredibly valuable".

I've learnt that every rural family has a show history, every rural person has an affiliation, even if they don't realise it yet.

In four short months I've attended a number of shows, had the honour of opening the Yeoval and Dubbo shows and become a part of the ASC NextGen.

I've come to recognise the opportunities, experiences and benefits the show network offers our communities.

Sometimes we forget the opportunity our shows give us to get off farm for two days a year and catch up with neighbours and friends. They entertain us. They allow us to showcase our very best livestock and produce. Then they reward creativity, excellence and innovation. They have done this across three centuries.

So back to these recurring themes.

When our essential small businesses are struggling - could the influx of visitors, tourists and entrants to our shows offer a little respite to incomes?

When drought intrudes on every conversation - could our shows give an opportunity to momentarily escape and catch up with old friends or to talk about the newest trends?

In the age of veganism and animal activists - is there any better vessel than our shows to demonstrate the care, pride and effort taken in our livestock and produce?

We all want to support communities, to provide a social release and to market the very best our great industry has to offer. You can find it all at your local show.

So I pose the question; just like that putrid Sunday night love story - has the answer been in front of our eyes the whole time?

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