The show president without a show

Andrew and Jo Benny were looking forward to the Ellesmere A&P Association’s 150th annual show,...
Andrew and Jo Benny were looking forward to the Ellesmere A&P Association’s 150th annual show, until Covid-19 forced its cancellation. PHOTO: DAVID HILL
Andrew Benny’s family roots in the Ellesmere district date back to the 1860s.

The sheep and cropping farmer was due to preside over the Ellesmere A&P Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations at the Selwyn Spring Show on October 17, until it became a casualty of Covid-19.

The Bennys first settled in the district in the 1860s, when Mr Benny’s great-great-grandfather Joseph Benny acquired a farm about 1km away from where Mr Benny and wife Jo farm today.

The couple farm 210ha south of Leeston, running 800 Dohne-Corriedale cross ewes plus replacements and growing 80-90ha in crops each year, including barley, white clover and peas.

"The sheep and crops give us quite a good balance," Mr Benny said.

The Bennys have a long involvement with the Ellesmere A&P Association, with Mr Benny’s grandfather serving as president in the 1960s; his uncles and great-uncles have served on the committee.

But the family involvement has been more about community service than exhibiting.

"We sometimes put flock sheep in the flock class, if they’re good enough, and we put a wool entry in and sometimes we put in some grain entries and the kids enter pet lambs," Mr Benny said.

While this year’s show has been cancelled, Mr Benny said planning was well advanced to make next year’s show a success.

"It’s a shame to get so close and not to have it, but it’s one of those things.

"All the planning has taken place, but it was just the financial risk and the potential health risk and it’s the 150th show, so it needs to be celebrated in a manner fitting of a 150th."

No decision has been made on whether Mr Benny will stay on for another 12 months to preside over next year’s show.

"The presidency has always been a one-year thing," he said.

Just two presidents have served more than one year, including the first president and a wartime president who served when the show was last cancelled.

Change has been constant throughout the last 150 years, said Mrs Benny, who has been compiling a book of the past 25 years to update the association’s history.

"Reading through the history every generation or decade has had their challenges, and in the minutes you can see the committee has constantly discussed how to increase show attendance and how to manage what is happening at that time in the district.

"There are the same topics like traffic, toilets and the timing of the grand parade."

Mrs Benny comes from a Marlborough farming family, which farmed Corriedale sheep and beef cattle.

The couple has three children. Kate (18) has been working on the farm while she has a gap year, Haig (13) attends West Rolleston School and Natalie (12) attends Ellesmere College.


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