Chairman of Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Robert Copley is the owner of Pontefract based Farmer Copleys alongside his wife, Heather. With the desire for amazing food, fantastic local produce and a warm welcome, Farmer Copleys has also showcased through its Moo Café and award-winning farm shop, how Britain and especially Yorkshire can compete with the very best the culinary world has to offer. Rob previously worked in Dorset milking 300 cows, 3 times a day, before moving to an American Breeding Service, training farmers how to inseminate cattle & classifying cattle for a computer evaluation programme. He then became a nutritionist at HST Feeds and finally working for Thompsons of York. He has several other roles having recently been appointed Chairman of the Farm Retail Association (FRA), and has a passion for championing the people and businesses who grow and sell Great British produce.
York farmer Charles Mills was appointed as Honorary Show Director of the Great Yorkshire Show and its sister event, Countryside Live in 2015.
He farms at Woolas Grange, Appleton Roebuck which is a mixed arable rotation, with a 250 ewe flock as well as a small beef finishing enterprise.
Charles has held a number of roles within the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, including Joint Chief Cattle Steward and as a member of the Society’s Council, its governing body, since 2002.
He chairs the judging panel for the annual Tye Trophy Farming Awards which promotes farming excellence coupled with conservation practices.
Charles has played a significant role in the educational aspect of the Society’s work, serving on its Grants and Education Committee and running arable workshops at the free Countryside Days which attract 6,000 primary school children every year. He is also a member of the management committee of the Society’s Future Farmers of Yorkshire.
Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Allister Nixon joined the YAS as CEO in June 2022, replacing Nigel Pulling.
Allister is a chartered accountant and a highly experienced, successful and well-regarded business leader.
Previously the Chief Operating Officer at Castle Howard Estate Ltd for six years, he worked with the Howard family to drive the historic estate forward, helping to manage its portfolio of businesses including a holiday park, retail, catering, farming and forestry.
Allister also has significant and varied experience working within large multinational PLCs, and his previous positions include Global COO and CFO at Kantar Media Audiences, where he helped in the setting up of new business and services in several countries. He moved from London six years ago and now lives with his family in North Yorkshire
MD of Yorkshire Event Centre & Deputy CEO of Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Heather Parry has worked for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society since 1993, initially as Marketing Manager and subsequently as Managing Director of the Society’s trading subsidiary company, Yorkshire Event Centre Ltd, alongside her role as Deputy Chief Executive of the YAS.
YEC Ltd hires out the Pavilions of Harrogate and the Yorkshire Event Centre for events. Heather was the mastermind behind building the Regional Agricultural Centre and Fodder.
This is the society’s HQ and home to Fodder, the only café food hall in the UK where 100% of profits go back to farmers through charity (Yorkshire Agricultural Society).
Most recently, Heather oversaw the £11 million development of Hall 1 of the Yorkshire Event Centre which scooped a national award within 12 months of opening.
Heather also launched the Harrogate Caravan Park in 2014 and all profits from these businesses, based on the showground, go to help fund the work of the registered charity, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS).
Heather is actively involved in Saint Michael’s Hospice, Harrogate. She had previously worked in Earls Court Exhibition Centre organising and marketing large events including, The Royal Smithfield Show and The Royal Tournament.
President of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Simon Theakston, our President, is the Joint Managing Director of T&R Theakston Ltd., his family brewing company, founded by his great-great grandfather in Masham, North Yorkshire in 1827. The company’s connection with Yorkshire agriculture is historic as Theakston’s source almost all the barley needing for brewing their beers, including the famous Old Peculier, from farms across Yorkshire and have done for the near 200 years of the company’s existence.
Simon joined his family company in 1981, two years before becoming a steward here at the GYS in 1983. For many years he served as President’s Steward before being elected first to Council and then to the Trustee Board of the Society in 2002 on which he served for 16 years of which 8 were as Chairman, retiring in 2018
He is Chairman of ‘Pub is the Hub’ a not-for-profit business founded by The Prince of Wales to sustain rural communities all over the country by providing the services needed for them to thrive through the pub as the hub of the community.
He is the former Chairman of the Yorkshire and Northeast Beer and Pub Association
Simon is a former pupil of Ashville College, Harrogate and served as a Councillor on the Harrogate Borough Council for 16 years, being made an Alderman in 2018. He is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Brewers where he was elected Master in 2019/20.
He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire in 2012
Simon has been married to his wife Candy for 42 years and lives in Farnham near Knaresborough. They have two grown up children and two grand children
On his appointment of the YAS Simon said,” The Society is very close to my heart having had a proud involvement with it for almost 40 years. To be appointed President is the greatest of honours for me and my family and I look forward to serving the society in this capacity to the best of my ability during my year in office.”
President Elect of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Martin joined the family business, RS Cockerill York Ltd, with his father who had started it in the 1930s.
Their main activity was trading potatoes and farming began with a tenancy of a farm in 1946 near Stamford Bridge.
Around 1990 they decided to concentrate on potato marketing and started packing for retailers which has become a major part of the business. The volume of potatoes for processing into crisps also increased.
They now farm around 500 hectares and also grow a further 200 hectares of potatoes on rented land. Martin’s wife runs a suckler herd of Dexter cattle supplying grass fed beef to London restaurants.
After retiring as Managing Director in 2019, Martin now lives on a small grassland farm on the edge of the North York Moors near Scarborough.
He has been a Rotarian for many years and also involved with the Samaritans and continues to support the organisation.