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Thousands flock to Builth Wells for Royal Welsh Winter Fair

Thousands of attendees reveled in a splendid and merry occasion at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, hosted at the Llanelwedd showground in Builth Wells on November 27th and 28th.

Originating as a modest one-day affair in 1990, the Winter Fair has evolved into a cherished highlight of the British agricultural schedule.

Renowned for its excellence in showcasing primestock, this year’s event drew over 600 exhibitors from Wales, England, and Scotland, solidifying its stature as one of the UK’s premier annual gatherings.

The 2023 Winter Fair was officially opened by NFU Cymru Deputy President, Abi Reader on Monday morning on behalf of the feature county of Glamorgan. Abi is a third generation mixed farmer and co-founder of the educational project Cows on Tour.

During her opening speech, Abi touched on two key messages. The first being how the Winter Fair plays an important role in showcasing all the hard work that farmers do all year round.

“The agricultural sector spends the entire year preparing for Winter.” said Abi. “We spend spring, summer and the autumn lambing, calving, planning, harvesting our crops, making sure everything works within the best of our control. And when we come here today, this is the showcase of the fruits of our labour,” said Abi.

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“What we have here at the Winter Fair is what I would call Europe’s finest prime stock show, celebrating Welsh beef, Welsh lamb, Welsh pork, everything that encompasses the heart of rural Wales.”

Abi conveyed the essential role of UK farmers in feeding the nation. “As food producers and carers of the landscape, we have the absolute honour to touch more lives than any other profession on this globe. We are with people in the best and worst of times. They may not even know that we are there, but our produce is somewhere in the background.

“Society relies on us to continue our commitment to produce the finest, safest, most nutritious, and affordable Welsh food that we possibly can.”

Another key theme at this year’s Winter Fair was education, with the launch of the new educational programme, Ein Tir / Our Land focussing on soil and healthy farming principles.

“We have 300 primary school children and 350 secondary school children here attending the programme over the next two days to convey who we are and what we do. These could be our future farmers and future industry sector leaders,” said Abi.

“The Winter Fair is stepping up to the role that it will play in making sure we inspire the next generation.”

For the first time, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society offered free entry to all organised school trips for children under the age of 16. After receiving an incredible response to this, the Society was delighted to welcome over 2,667 children from 53 primary and secondary schools. Schools from the length and breadth of Wales have attended across the two days, from Anglesey to Glamorgan.

In addition, there were over 600 college students in attendance, bringing the total to over 3,267 young people visiting the Winter Fair to learn about the positive farming story.

The two-day event is an important platform for policy discussion and debate with Ministers from both the Welsh and UK Governments in attendance, together with representatives from the German and Irish Embassies, putting the event on the international map. The Society is proud that the Winter Fair has once again been able to play a role in facilitating discussions between highly influential individuals and organisations, which affect the future of Welsh agriculture and the rural economy.

A regular Winter Fair guest, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths was pleased to be back in Llanelwedd and emphasised the important role that farmers have to play in tackling the environmental threats facing the agricultural sector.

“The Winter Fair is an important event to showcase the best of rural Wales and to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the agriculture sector, especially in responding to the climate and nature emergencies,” the Minister said.

The support for the event from the industry, especially the livestock exhibitors, has been excellent. With strong entries from across the UK in all sections, and record entries in the sheep section, the livestock, as always, played centre stage to the busy two-day event.

One of the most prestigious titles to be won at the event each year, the Supreme Cattle Champion, was awarded to ‘Phoenix’, a Heifer sired by a Limousin weighing 690kg, bred and exhibited by Stewart and Lynsey Bett from Stirlingshire. Fresh from its reserve championship win at LiveScot just days ago, Phoenix, went one better and took the overall prime cattle championship.

Phoenix is no stranger to the Winter Fair judging rings, having taken the reserve Baby Beef title last year. In the post-show sale, the winning heifer was later sold by official auctioneers, McCartneys for £7,000 to Mark Webster, Rhyl.

The Supreme Sheep Champion title went to a pair of home-bred pedigree Blue Texel lambs from Chris Davies, Powys. The prize winners, which had earlier topped the continental section, are out of home-bred ewes from Mr Davies’ 35-ewe Beaconsview flock.

The prizes in the pig shed were dominated by H.D. and E.M. Roberts, Gwynedd, whose four Welsh pigs took champion and reserve in the singles and pairs judging.

The family have won numerous championship prizes with their home-bred Welsh pigs at the Winter Fair. The champion pair went on to sell for an impressive £960 a pig to Tom Hughes Butchers, Anglesey.

Equine entries were at their highest since 2015, and the Supreme Horse Champion went to ‘Cilmery Casemiro’, a Welsh Mountain Pony Colt Foal exhibited by Ryan Wilson, Herefordshire.

Elsewhere on the showground, the winner of the Best Overall Tradestand Award went to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) based in the South Glamorgan Hall, for their demonstration of informative and environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

This year saw over 350 tradestands, and over 60 more stands in the Food Hall where guests were able to sample the superb produce from across Wales. The Best Dressed Food Hall Tradestand went to local honey business, Bee Welsh Honey, for showcasing their top-quality produce.

The late night shopping evening again saw thousands of visitors indulging in some Christmas shopping and enjoying the festive atmosphere and spectacular firework display.

The success of the event can be accredited not only to the hard working and determined committee, but also to the loyalty of the exhibitors, traders, volunteers, and stewards. This events would not take place without the support of its sponsors, and the society would like to thank their headline sponsors, Welsh Government, HSBC, Dunbia and Event Operations Specialists, along with all the sponsors for helping to support this event.

“This year’s event has been tremendous,” said Winter Fair Honorary Director, William Hanks. “We have had exceptional visitor numbers. It was fantastic to see the showground bustling with Christmas shoppers and festivity.”

“It has long been an ambition of mine to offer an educational element at the Winter Fair, and building on the positive feedback from last year, we were able to launch a very successful educational programme. Sharing the knowledge around agriculture, horticulture and how food is produced is vital and an initiative the Society is keen to get increasingly involved in.”

“We are grateful for the huge amount of hard work and dedication from the many volunteers, stewards, traders, sponsors and, of course, the visitors who make this event possible. We hope all our guests have enjoyed the Winter Fair and look forward to welcoming them back to our events next year.”