Yesterday was South Molton’s annual Christmas Fatstock Show. I have written about it before but in the 2 years since our visit it has grown even more to be one of the best days out we’ve had in our local area.
What is a Fatstock Show you might ask? Well, it’s an old tradition dating back hundreds of years common to many areas of the country. Farmers would gather at Christmas to sell “fat” animals ie those ready for slaughter. Selling them off before Christmas meant they got a good price at a time of high demand and were not left with mouths to feed at a difficult time of year when forage was short for livestock. It was also of course a great excuse for merrymaking and general good cheer!
Exactly the same principles apply today in this traditional livestock farming area. The show was full of live sheep and cattle plus a good assortment of their dead flockmates specially butchered to show off their meat qualities. Not for the squeamish or the dedicated veggie perhaps but for those of us who acknowledge where our meat comes from it was respectfully done and an honest tribute to the hard work and skill of an industry that rarely gets much attention from the public.
Apart from the animals, dead and alive, there was a HUGE array of local businesses selling food, beverages, presents, decorations, and all the bits and pieces that go to make up a traditional English Christmas. Not a plastic tree in sight but loads of fresh ones grown 3 miles away. We had our local farm suppliers, Mole Valley Farmers present for the first time in a big marquee and also our main farm vets for the area, who also happen to be my specialist AI vets. The Wool Marketing Board were there in the form of Brian, our area rep, with some great displays.
The whole thing was full of local connections, local produce and local people all having a great day out. For those of us who knew people it was a lovely way to catch up before Christmas. For those who were not part of the farming community it was equally welcoming. I heard one visitor, perhaps from London and down for the weekend, say “This is better than the German Christmas Markets – everyone is so FRIENDLY!” To me this was taken as read. This is what people are like down here. There’s an innate sense of good manners in crowds, a natural respect for the very old and the very young and time for everyone. This is absolutely NOT unique to the farming community of course but it is very common wherever farmers get together. If you get the chance to go along to a local farming show of any kind then go and see for yourself. If you don’t know what’s going on, ask. Farmers don’t always realise what a baffling world they inhabit to the urban outsider.
So, fortified with mulled wine, hog roast, mince pies, Christmas cheer and presents we got back to the car to find all the car parks overflowing and long queues to get in. Long may it last. S Molton Christmas Fatstock Show is the start of my Festivities!