Do Horticultural Shows Need to Modernise?

I live in a village which holds an annual horticultural show, the likes of which you see in villages and towns all over the UK. Many years ago I used to participate, but when I became a professional grower I wasn’t allowed to compete any longer. Twelve years has passed and as I am now ‘retired’ from professional chilli growing I am eligible to compete again so recently one of the village elders gave me the application booklet, apparently these days they are struggling for participants. Why is this I wonder? With the boom in ‘grow your own’ that can’t have eluded anybody you would have thought there would be lots of eager takers.

Now I am probably not a typical veg grower, I lean towards the unusual, challenging or bizarre. I obviously grow lots of chillies and I don’t have huge amounts of space, so I mostly steer clear of potatoes and the bigger root vegetables. Even so I would say that from what I hear from my humble list of followers, and what I glean from the press, those that have recently taken to veg growing, and in particular younger growers are a little more Thai basil than turnip.

On my local show list there are 32 classes in the vegetable section, and I am currently growing , even if you count chillies as 1, 24 different vegetables or herbs and yet the overlap between the two is only 4, not including the ‘Any other vegetable’ and ‘Any other fruit’ classes. They have runner beans, I grow dwarf french beans, They have turnips, parsnips and beetroot, I have asparagus peas, mouse melons and aubergines. They have marrow, I have squash.

I know of another local show which, when some new organisers took over the reigns, did amend their class list slightly to reflect changes in taste, but this didn’t go down well with the traditionalists. If you have grown prize turnips for decades you might be slightly miffed if your category is culled to make way for’ Hot Pepper’ or ‘Ornamental gourd or squash’. I am interested to know whether anyone has opinions on this, and if so how should horticultural shows reflect changing trends? Some of them go back hundreds of years, with cherished cups presented in memorial to past members, so tradition stands in the way of modernisation. I am inclined to kick things off with an offer of a new cup to my local show for ‘Tropical or Oriental Vegetable’ or some such thing, but would that preclude me from winning it? I’m not too worried.