Devon County Show time again
- Credit: Richard Austin
It will soon be Devon County Show time again, which means a new President, a new chance for leading farm businesses to win awards…and a new opportunity to pick up a fabulous show ticket offer with Devon Life
If the new President of the Devon County Agricultural Association, David Parish, was a stick of rock, you would find the words ‘Devon County Show’ running through him from top to bottom.
In many ways, David is a typical Devon farmer. He has just turned 71, has been married to Rita - herself a farmer’s daughter - for almost 42 years, and is part of a family business, milking cows, rearing free-range chickens and growing corn, based at Mounstephen Farm, near Uffculme. But what marks him out as very special indeed is his 31 years of service to the Devon County Show, for the last 16 of them as a determinedly hands-on and highly popular Honorary Show Director.
Quietly spoken, mild-mannered but with a hint in his eyes of the inner steel that you need to be a key player in an event as huge and multi-faceted as the Devon County Show, David says that he was “surprised, but very proud” when he was asked to take on the Presidency for 2015.
“When I look at the list of Past Presidents, and all the distinguished names there are on that board, it makes me very humble, and very honoured to find myself in that company.”
“To me, the Devon County is up there with the very best three-day shows in the country. It is still fundamentally a farming show, with some of the best livestock you will see anywhere, but it now acts as a shop window for the whole of rural Devon, with a Food and Drink marquee which is second to none.”
It was David’s father Clifford who was the first Parish to farm Mounstephen Farm, when he took on the tenancy in 1939. It was part of a small private estate owned by a Miss Tanner. She was something of an eccentric, drinking only water, taking a cold bath every morning and not owning a car, and when she died, she left the entire estate to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which provides help to farming families who may have fallen on hard times.
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“It does take some of the sting out of paying the rent to know that the money will be going towards such a good cause”, says David.
In all, the Parish family farm around 500 acres, including Weir Mill Farm, on the outskirts of Willand, overlooking the beautiful Culm Valley, which David and Rita bought when they married, and to which they welcome a steady stream of guests for farmhouse bed and breakfast, as well as blocks of mostly arable land at Wellington and near Bridgwater.
It is entirely a family business, with no hired labour. David’s younger brother, Christopher, looks after the calves and young stock, his son Stephen manages the 150,000/year free range broiler unit, while David’s son, Ian, is responsible for the 170 commercial Friesian dairy cows, which milk themselves through three robotic milkers. And David himself? “I help with the cows and look after the books - when my show commitments allow me, that is”, he laughs. Rather like the Devon County Show, this is a farm which combines the best of the old family farming values, with the most up to date of the sustainably intensive technology.
David is looking forward to this year’s Devon County Show with an even keener sense of anticipation than usual, and not just because he’ll be combining his duties as Honorary Show Director with those of DCAA President.
“2015 is bounce-back year!” he enthuses. “It’s our 120th Devon County Show and everyone’s absolutely determined to make it one of the best ever.” n
For more information about the Devon County Show please visit devoncountyshow.co.uk