10 May 2025

Nottinghamshire County Show is a “powerful” force bringing the town and the countryside together

It was while serving countless home-made sausage rolls and tray-bakes at Nottinghamshire County Show last year that Holly Hardy started to understand the role the show plays in the local community. 

As joint owner and managing director of Hardy’s Farm Shop and Café, based in Farndon, Holly was making her debut at the event, having decided that her business would take part for the first time. 

The event takes place at Newark Showground and the farm shop’s pitch was close to the venue’s main entrance, which was an ideal spot from which to watch the thousands of people, travelling to the show from Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and beyond, streaming in from the car park. 

Last year the show attracted 15,000 people, but what struck Holly, alongside how busy her stand was during the day, was how the event introduced her to a whole new audience keen to buy food from local suppliers. 

She said: “Taking part in any event like the show is stressful and we’d never done the show before, but the business that we did on the day meant we really reaped the rewards and made it all worth it. 

“We met a lot of our loyal customers along with people who’d heard of us but didn’t know where we were, and we were able to meet some of our suppliers who were also at the show during the day as well. 

“It can be quite isolating running a business in the countryside, and we are a bit tucked away ourselves, so you realise how powerful this event is for bringing rural companies together in one place while allowing them to raise awareness of their businesses to thousands of people at the same time.” 

For Des Allen, such comments are music to his ears. Des, a pig and arable farmer from nearby Coddington and a former chairman for the NFU in Nottinghamshire, is the newly appointed chairman of the show’s organising committee, having taken over the role from Richard Sheldon. 

The show is organised by the Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural Society, a registered charity which was set up to be the driving force behind the prosperity of agriculture in the county and region and which, unusually for most agricultural show organisers, also owns and operates the venue itself. 

The show is its flagship event, continuing a long history of county shows in Newark which began at the end of the 18th Century, when a group of local farmers got together to meet up and show off their livestock. 

Back then there were just two awards on offer - both of which were for sheep – but now competitors from across the Midlands and elsewhere bring their sheep, pigs, cattle and goats along to compete for prizes in what is one of the first agricultural shows of the year. 

Des still remembers attending the show when he was a child and says it has changed significantly over the years, not least because it is no longer held purely to serve the agricultural community. 

Instead, these days it is there to showcase the very best of Nottinghamshire farming and to promote local produce as well as provide a fun-packed day out for families, who this year will be entertained by a motorcycle display team from London called The Imps, a Sheep Show, music and the Nottinghamshire Young Farmers Groups’ lawnmower race. 

There will also be farriering competitions, equestrian events, the traditional vintage tractor parade, a Make, Bake and Grow section and area featuring countryside skills, crafts and organisations.  

The current show is the result of the Society’s deliberate efforts to return the show to its agricultural roots and heritage after it became something more akin to a town fair rather than a countryside celebration. 

Some in the local farming community still believe this to be the case and so no longer attend the show, which is something Des wants to change. 

The Society has also launched a new buy-one-get-one-free deal exclusively for NFU members to encourage them and their families to attend. 

Des said: “We definitely had more farmers attend last year, along with more agricultural trade stands, and I think anyone in the farming community who still thinks the show has nothing for them would be pleasantly surprised. 

“The Society has worked extremely hard to demonstrate to those who make their living in agriculture that the show promotes farming and their way of life to the thousands of consumers who come along on the day. 

“I think it plays a very important role in that respect. Often, the public often only see us when we’re driving slowly in front of them in our tractors, while they often have serious questions about what we’re doing with regards to land management, sustainability and animal welfare. 

“If people don’t understand our industry, then ignorance can be unhelpful, but the show gives everyone an opportunity to show consumers what we’re all about and to talk to them about our industry. 

“That has to be something that everyone working in agriculture would welcome, which is why we would like to see as many people from the farming community coming along.” 

Another side of the event which often goes unnoticed are the Society’s service to agriculture awards, which are handed out to longstanding farming champions on show day, along with education awards in the form of grants to agricultural students to help them develop their careers. 

The Society gave out 21 such awards last year, including to Emily Hennell, 18, from Laxton, who successfully bid for £500 to pay for extra training alongside her Level 3 Diploma Course in Agriculture at Nottingham Trent University’s Brackenhurst Campus. 

She said: “After I finish my course I want to find a job that I enjoy doing, such as working on a dairy farm or an arable farm, but I’m not 100% percent sure of which direction I want to go in yet. 

“Wherever I end up, the more skills and qualifications I have, the more opportunities I’ll have, so being awarded a grant from the Society to pay for extra training will definitely benefit me.” 

More young winners will receive awards this year when the show takes place again on May 11, while, across the showground, Holly and the Hardy Farm Shop team will also be back, having already secured their pitch close to the entrance. 

“Seeing the community there and the local produce on offer last year made me proud of Nottinghamshire,” said Holly. “I think we can all do better in this county to raise the awareness of what we can produce, which is why it’s good to be a part of a show which does that. 

“We’re looking forward to returning again this year. We really enjoyed it and we noticed that our trade picked up back at the farm shop for the next few weeks afterwards.” 

The Society is also keen to recruit new members, who receive a host of benefits, including VIP experience at the Show. For more details, visit www.nottinghamshirecountyshow.com