THIS WEEK we reflect on a momentous Royal Highland Show as it made its return from a Covid induced hiatus. We sought out the views of some trade exhibitors given their importance to the long-term security of the event ... and that includes The Scottish Farmer.

Ken Fletcher, on behalf of The Scottish Farmer:

What was the highlight of the show for you?

"Like everyone else, it was just being part of that whole mix that makes agriculture an exciting business to be part of and report on. It's people that 'make' events and this year's show certainly proved that.

"Of course, the livestock display counts as a favourite for many and there's possibly a danger that this huge draw sucks the footfall out of the trade areas, and though there have been mixed views regarding trade being done around the show, some report doing really well.

"As for The SF, I'd say we were a bit quieter, but we still found we had an acceptable number of customers coming on to our stand. It's always good to interact with loads of people that we probably only get the chance to meet at the Royal Highland. That's why it remains important for us to be there."

Why is the show important to the sector?

"We sometimes forget that agriculture is not just a way of life, but a business too and the connections made and nurtured by the trade at the show is a vital cog that keeps the industry moving. The show is the perfect conduit for that ... and it must remain that way.

"On the converse side, there's the role that all the meeting and greeting plays in boosting mental well-being with many people. After two years of lockdowns and Covid outbreaks, it was a much needed tonic for many of us. Me included.

"The importance of that and also the re-connections made with rural charities, such as RHET and RSABI are vital to maintaining the caring side of agriculture that can sometimes be too easy to forgotten. When the need arises, farming is a great supporter of many charities and it's maybe something that we don't shout often or loud enough about."

What would make the show better for next year?

"From our point of view, the connectivity needs to be better. Despite a much-vaunted spend by RHASS on internet connectivity three years ago, the loss of much of it, especially during the Thursday and Friday of the show, impacted greatly on us. We have been assured that this will be investigated and acted upon.

"Also, the flow of people through the showground needs looking at to improve the prospects for trade stands in certain parts of the showground. Moving the gates, or making more of them might be an option which will help, as will making it easier for people to buy tickets.

"Speaking for those in the stocklines ... the provision of hot shower facilities would be greatly appreciated, especially when you have to sit next to some of them!"

Lindsay Haddon, on behalf of Massey Ferguson:

What was the highlight of the show for you?

"There were many highlights of the Royal Highland Show for the Massey Ferguson team this year, but the biggest would have to be just being back at the showground with our customers and friends.

"Despite the uncertainty of whether the show would be busy, we were just so excited to be back and we need not have worried because it was a fantastic turnout, our stand was constantly a hustle and bustle of familiar and new faces.

"Moving stands to a larger area was a huge bonus for us, it meant we could showcase more machinery in an even more hospitable environment. The extra space made a huge difference to us and has most definitely been a highlight.

"Showcasing our Queen’s Jubilee MF 8S tractor in such a grand space was another one, as this formed part of our 175th anniversary this year.

"Another highlight was actually getting to have our technical innovation award officially recognised as we were unable to do this last year. We won silver for our MF 8S tractor (see picture).

Why is the show important to the sector?

"The RHS isn’t just important, it’s imperative to agriculture and farming communities, both in Scotland and beyond. You’ll never see a more diverse mix of people, sectors, products and services all coming together to celebrate food, farming and the countryside.

"It’s easy for people to get to so we don’t just greet people from the same areas ... customers come from everywhere."

What would make the show better for next year?

It’s difficult to say what would make it better. From an outside point of view, perhaps the car parking was a slight bone of contention.

"We were slightly confused over tickets and would have preferred wristbands for our team, but other than that we came away feeling that it was great to be back – a very worthwhile few days."

Ria Macdonald, director of Charles Macleod

What was the highlight of the show for you?

“Having returned from four very busy days at the Royal Highland Show, we certainly have lots to reflect on. It was fantastic to be back at a live, face to face event after such a long time, and all the visitors to our stand felt the same.

“The show had a real buzz about it and our stand was busy from the outset. Our signature product, Stornoway Black Pudding, is very well known and many of our old friends and customers came to visit our stand to tell how much they enjoy it.

"They were delighted to see the business is still run by us Macleods, albeit third generation! It was great to hear so many stories and connections to Stornoway and our black pudding.

Why is the show important to the sector?

“Although we are primarily butchers, we are also farmers and crofters on the Isle of Lewis, so I have been a regular at the Highland Show since I was a small child. Our business is dependent on the agricultural sector and the connections we make at the Highland Show are integral to that. The Royal Highland Show gives us the opportunity to strengthen existing relationships within the sector and make valuable new contacts.

“It is a big investment for us to attend the show all the way from the Outer Hebrides, but it was certainly worthwhile. Not only did we sell out of black pudding, the opportunity to meet so many customers was fantastic.

What would make the show better for next year?

“Next year would be a great opportunity to showcase more of our product range and we would love to be joined by more producers from the Outer Hebrides.

Finlay Macdonald, founder of Chocolates of Glenshiel

What was the highlight of the show for you?

"For us, the highlight of this year’s show had to be the opportunity of being part of the bigger Highlands and Islands food and drink picture in the Scotland’s Larder exhibition hall. The incredibly high standard of food and drink products in Scotland makes us feel so proud to be a part of the industry!

"It was wonderful for us to be able to meet some of the producers of the top-class ingredients we use in our chocolates and get to know them and hear about their passion for food.

"Another highlight for us was the selection of ice cream stands – just what we needed throughout that sunny weekend!"

Why is the show important to the sector?

"It seems that most people are keen to support small, local businesses – especially after the last couple of years – but it can be difficult to scope out smaller producers who don’t feature on supermarket or high street shelves. The Royal Highland Show brings local businesses and consumers together, giving everyone a chance to experience the wealth of amazing producers here in Scotland, the benefits of which can’t be understated."

What would make the show better for next year?

"Already the Royal Highland Show is doing a fantastic job at promoting the food and drink sector. We suggest more brands, more people, more noise, more celebrating and shouting about Scotland’s amazing produce!"