Richard Ashworth’s life would more than likely have taken a very different course if foot and mouth disease had not cast its shadow across much of the north of England back in 2001.
Around that time he seemed destined for a career in transportation and perhaps eventually taking over the reins of his parents’ livestock haulage company from their base in Cropton.
Besides last weekend’s Pickering Game & Country Fair, Richard Ashworth is the brains behind several other agricultural showpieces this summer.
In the weeks leading up to the event at Pickering Showground, you may have found him putting up roadside signs advertising the outdoor show.
It’s just one of a multitude of tasks he undertakes personally in running five events a year that includes the 10th Annual Pickering Game & Country Fair at Pickering Showground last Saturday and Sunday.
He’s the kind of person you might expect to see going around with his fingers permanently crossed, as his income, and the success of his shows, are fully determined by the weather.
“My parents ran Skelton Banks Farm as the 57-acre holding that my grandfather moved to in 1959.
“They had switched the farm from being a beef and pigs operation to pigs and poultry and had around 300-400 sows that with progeny led to around 5,000 pigs on site at any time; and 5,000 laying hens that had brought about an egg round covering Kirkbymoorside, Helmsley and Hovingham area.
“They also ran a feed company and a livestock transport company primarily hauling pigs, but everything finished around 2001. All of the livestock was sold, they stopped making feed and they sold all the trucks.
“Farmers just weren’t in a position to pay, through no fault of their own. Animal movement restrictions were in place and everyone was suffering.”
Although Richard stops short of the phrases living nightmare’ and unfortunate casualty’ it is a stark reminder of how some of agriculture’s ancillary businesses were dealt a fatal blow. His parents moved out of farming and the related agricultural businesses they had nurtured, although they have retained the farmhouse.
“When I came back from studying for my degree in transport logistics and business management at Newcastle the farm business was over.
“I started looking at other ideas and became an events manager when Pickering Showground was being developed.
“I was responsible for the launch of Pickering Game & Country Fair 10 years ago and two years ago I launched my own company taking over the running of this show and others.”
Richard’s shows don’t include cattle and sheep that the many agricultural societies run throughout summer season but the likes of Pickering Game & Country Fair do include huge chunks of rural life and a decade on it is now a regular fixture that many agricultural show season diehards have accepted into their calendars.
“People are genuinely interested in the countryside and country pursuits.
“Competitors and visitors will travel from Ireland, the Lake District, Scotland, Wales and the south of England. We also offer demonstrations of old techniques used in the country such as long netting for catching rabbits, farriery and horse logging.”
Richard’s other events are the Modified Car Show, also held at Pickering Showground on June 8; Cheshire Steam Fair at Warrington on July 12-13; Astle Park Traction Engine Rally at Chelford on August 9-10; and Nostell Priory Steam Fair, that he is resurrecting this year after a short absence, on August 24-25.