Agricultural Shows

I'm writing this at the South of England Show at Ardingly.  I arrived early to speak at a "Sussex Breakfast", promoting local food.  I've been touring the show, talking to farmers and producers, and now I'm off to the official lunch.  If I achieve nothing else, at least I'm eating for Britain!

I've enjoyed visiting agricultural shows across the country in recent weeks, in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  I've already been to the Royal Cornwall Show and to the Royal Bath and West, where I joined David Cameron.  I'm also off to several others, including the Great Yorkshire and of course the Royal, which will sadly be the last ever Royal Show.

I think these agricultural shows are so important, as well as being great days out for the whole family.  People can learn about the countryside and find out where our food comes from.  The shows strengthen the bridge between town and country.

A particular highlight at Ardingly this year is the NFU ‘Meet the Farmer' exhibit, with a fabulous display of local produce, and young chefs from Sussex Downs College showing off their cookery skills.  An entrepreneurial group of schoolchildren even managed to sell me a cookery book in aid of their herb garden!

My message at the shows has been that we need to back British farming and local food.  And it's time for a government which shows some respect for rural communities.

On Monday I will be leading a Commons debate on the rural economy, pointing out that rural areas are affected by the downturn, too.  In fact, remote parts of England, where transport costs are high and jobs are scarce, can be hit particularly hard.

I'll be warning that we need to foster the small businesses in rural areas that can provide sustainable jobs growth in the future.  So my message is that farming and the countryside matters.

Michelle Taylor