The annual Great Yorkshire Show is one of the biggest agricultural events in the UK and has been extended to cover four days at the Harrogate showground, rather than the historic three.

But the show – and the work of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) which stages it – is more than entertainment.

It is also a place for farmers to socialise and do business, showcasing the best of animals from across the UK as well as cutting-edge machinery, bringing together industry leaders, government ministers and even royalty. It’s also a great way of showing the public the work of farmers.

The show may be the public-facing focal point of the year, but the Yorkshire Agricultural Society performs a multitude of other functions that help to support and represent farmers, their families and those in associated industries in the modern world.

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society can be traced back to 1837 when a group of key agriculturalists met to discuss the future of farming in the county, though shows remained nomadic, taking place at various venues until the Harrogate showground was established as a permanent home in 1951.

A young girl with a cow at the Great Yorkshire Show

Since then the show has become a fixture in the town’s calendar, interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to it becoming a four-day event.

This worked so well in 2021 for allowing visitors easier access around the showground, with numbers capped at 35,000 a day, that the system has been adopted permanently.

It allows farmers, countryside communities and those in associated industries to mix, socialise and conduct professional business in a relaxed environment, alongside the many others with interest in rural affairs.

Beyond that, however, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society fulfils an array of year-round functions that provide huge benefits for farmers and the wider community, both rural and urban.

That includes hosting countryside days at the showground, where urban primary school pupils are invited to learn more about the rural areas and lifestyles of the county.

Allister Nixon, who took over recently as chief executive of the society, said some of their young visitors had not previously had close experience of animals like sheep.

While the showground also hosts other events, Yorkshire Agricultural Society is responsible for supporting a series of farming networks, which, Mr Nixon said: “Provide support for, and a voice for, Yorkshire agriculture and rural industries.”

Others include a network for women in farming and rural support, offering access to decision-makers at regional and government level.

A lady in front of the GYS flower sign

“We also offer grants and scholarships, we look at developing young people in the agriculture industry, helping them to develop and move their careers on,” said Mr Nixon. “It is a fantastic, life-changing, opportunity for those people.”

In combination, the society’s work has a wide-reaching influence, and Mr Nixon said: “I think the impact manifests itself in the society’s reputation.

“If we were not doing such good work, I don’t think the society would have the good reputation that it has.”

All profits from businesses across the showground, which run throughout the year, goes to help fund the work of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, which is a registered charity. These include a farm shop café, Fodder, the Yorkshire Event Centre, the Pavilions of Harrogate and the Harrogate Caravan Park.

Tickets for the 164th Great Yorkshire Show, which runs from Tuesday, 11 July, to Friday, 14 July, 2023, are now available and must be bought in advance. Details are available on the Great Yorkshire Show website.