Andrew Stark, Senior Policy Officer - UK Land and Seas Policy, provides a round up of many of the agricultural shows and events we will be attending during the course of the summer.

The RSPB cares passionately about agriculture, farmers and crofters, and nature. They are all intrinsically linked; we can’t have food without farmers, but we also can’t have food without nature. These connections are on display at our own Hope Farm, where we demonstrate how you can farm productively whilst increasing the abundance of wildlife found at the Farm, from Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and Skylarks to increases in many butterfly species populations.

The RSPB works as part of the food and farming community in a number of ways. We work with farmers and crofters across the UK, sharing research and providing practical advice to help farmers improve the nature they have on their land. We also engage in policy work with Governments across the UK, ensuring our farming policies are supporting the agricultural sector to tackle the nature and climate crisis. We campaign with our supporters, carry out agricultural research projects and provide volunteering opportunities for those passionate about our wildlife.

Another aspect of our work is our presence and contribution to agricultural shows right across the UK. Agricultural shows are an important part of the farming calendar and brilliant opportunities to engage with farmers and the wider public about the latest developments in farming, as well as providing a forum for knowledge sharing amongst peers.

Scotland – The Royal Highland Show

RSPB Scotland staff will be at the Royal Highland Show running from the 22nd - 25th June, on a stall shared with several RSPB Scotland teams. The stand will highlight a selection of the Scotland species and conservation work promoted through the Wild Isles TV series, which demonstrated the wide variety of species we protect in Scotland. Staff working in agriculture will also be on hand to discuss RSPB Scotland’s policies on food and farming and our vision for Scotland’s Agricultural Bill, due to be published later this year. We believe that this Bill is a key opportunity to provide better support for farmers and crofters to manage their land in a nature and climate friendly way. Staff will be able to offer advice on how the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme can support species including Black Grouse, Corncrake, Corn Bunting, Curlew and Lapwing as well as some of our landscape scale projects working with farmers across Scotland.

We will also be attending partner events across the show and engaging with members of the public, providing membership opportunities and the chance to learn all about the work we do. Outside of the Royal Highland Show, RSPB Scotland staff will also be attending some of the regional agricultural shows so look out for us at these events as well.

Northern Ireland - Balmoral Show

Staff in Northern Ireland were at the Balmoral Show from 10th May to 13th May. They hosted a screening of "Hungry for Change" – a food and farming film developed from the Wild Isles series - at the Nature Friendly Farming Network partners stall known this year as the "Regenerative Agriculture Zone". This was also shown at Tesco’s stand in the ‘Food Hall’ section of Balmoral. Northern Ireland staff also hosted a discussion panel after the film chaired by the Irish Examiner paper with Martin Lines (chair of the NFFN), Danske Bank NI, National Trust and RSPB.

We also held an Environmental Farming Scheme drop-in at our main stand – with membership and community engagement colleagues - to answer any farmer queries on nature friendly farming and how the RSPB can work more closely with the agricultural sector.

 For more on this, read Ruairi Brogan’s (Policy Officer, Sustainable Agriculture for NI) blog about his time at the Balmoral Show.

Wales – The Royal Welsh Show

Turning to Wales, RSPB Cymru staff will be attending and organising events at the Royal Welsh Show, which takes place from 24th July to 27th July 2023. As with our attendance at other agricultural show events across the UK, we will be engaging with members of the public and our supporters about the work we do across the breadth of RSPB Cymru, as well as engaging with the farming community on how to better support them in upscaling nature friendly farming practices.

Image: Arfon Williams, Head of Land and Sea Policy - RSPB Cymru (left) with Mark Isherwood, Conservative MS and Curlew Species Champion, at last year’s Royal Welsh Show

Staff will be holding a food and farming event organised in partnership with the National Trust and WWF. We will also be promoting our latest thinking on nature friendly farming and how we can get more farmers in Wales delivering 10% of their land well managed for nature, and how this aligns with Welsh Government policy proposals.

Staff from the RSPB Cymru Lake Vyrnwy reserve will also be joining us, along with their local peatland contractors to talk about the largescale and impressive peat restoration taking place on this 10,000 hectare reserve and how future Welsh Government policy can support others to do this now and into the future.

England – Groundswell and Open Farm Sunday events

RSPB staff and colleagues from the Farm Wildlife Partnership and Fair to Nature will be at Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Festival , on the 28th and 29th June, which “provides a forum for farmers, growers, or anyone interested in food production and the environment to learn about the theory and practical applications of regenerative farming systems.” This will be the seventh year of Groundswell and the third year that we will have a Stand.

The real value at the core of this popular annual event is the opportunity for farmers and anyone interested in sustainable food production to better understand the importance and benefits of applying regenerative farming systems, through attending talks, forums and guided walks of the site.

We will be running a session on the evening of the 28th June in partnership with National Trust and WWF. This will include a screening of the of "Hungry for Change" – a food and farming film developed from the Wild Isles series, followed by a panel discussion.

On the 29th we will be speaking at and facilitating a panel to discuss ‘The Food and Farming Consensus’, which is a growing agreement, which emerged from the margins of the Oxford farming conferences this year, which is being supported by organisations and progressive voices from across the farming and conservation sectors. The panel will include representatives from three main political parties in Westminster and will pose the question: how do we build greater consensus & secure political leadership to support the groundswell of regenerative, nature positive change across the farming sector? Helen Browning farmer and CEO of the Soil Association will chair the session.

Please come and find us at Stand PF B3, we look forward to seeing you there.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday

The RSPB is joining in with the very successful annual LEAF Open Farm Sunday event at Hope Farm on the 11th June.  Hope Farm isn’t open to the public at other times of the year, so this is a great chance to visit and find out how we put food on the table, with nature at the heart of everything we do.

In addition we will be at Open Farm Sunday events at Hainey Farm (G’s Fresh) and Park Farm (Thorney).

These events are free to attend, but places are limited. To find out more click here.

We will be attending a wide range of events across the UK. The food system and the UK’s agricultural sector is fundamental, and nature plays a central role in how we can ensure our long-term food security. These agricultural shows provide a unique opportunity for us to engage with fellow members of the farming community, our members and supporters, and policy makers.

If you’re attending any of these events over the summer, then why not come and say hello!

For any questions, email (Senior Policy Officer, Sustainable Land).