The Ploughing is a phenomenal success story but has it outgrown its roots?
As if we needed any reminding that 2018 will certainly be remembered as a year where the weather caused havoc at the National Ploughing Championships, leading to the belated closure of Wednesday and the addition of Friday to the traditional three-day event.
The success of the National Ploughing Championships is nothing short of spectacular. It has grown from humble beginnings 87 years ago into the largest outdoor event in Europe.
The foresight and strong leadership of the National Ploughing Association (NPA) by Anna-May McHugh and her army of volunteers is a credit to the agricultural industry. It is a great example of the enterprise and innovation that exists in rural Ireland.
The result of this exceptional growth is that the event has far outgrown its roots, aptly defined in one publication as follows: “The National Ploughing Championships is now no longer just for ploughing or machinery enthusiasts — the modern event now features something for just about every member of the community. These include a Tented Trade Village, a Food Fair, Craft Village, Livestock, Forestry, Education, Lifestyle, Financial Services, Bio Energy and Agri Service.’”
The heart of the event is still dominated by the large agribusiness stands, but increasingly there are stands and exhibits with little or no connection to agriculture.
Every media outlet has a presence — TV, radio, print and online.
There is wall to wall coverage of the event as a sense of farming and agriculture enters the psyche of the nation.
There are 139,000 farmers with Basic Payment Scheme Applications (BPS) in the country but there were 240,500 people at the ploughing in 2018. Every farmer does not attend, so who does go to the ploughing and why do they attend?