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Farming

Ian Rickman: 2021 is a critical year for Wales’ farming future

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THE INCREASINGLY negative narrative around livestock farming and its portrayed impact on the environment and climate change has led to farmers in Wales standing up to tell their stories and highlight the positive impact livestock farming has.


Through the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ campaign ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’, farmers are addressing misleading claims by various groups about the role livestock farming plays in relation to climate change and the environment.  Launching the campaign, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “The FUW has consistently recognised the threat represented by climate change and the need to take action. This is clear from a cursory look at our manifestos and policy documents published over the past twenty years.


“We know that farming is already responsible for a critical carbon resource in soils, woodland and semi-natural habitats and I’m pleased to launch the FUW’s environment campaign – ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’ from my home farm here in Carmarthenshire today. As farmers are the most trusted link in the supply chain, they are best placed to communicate their stories, helping to address consumer concerns and influencing political agendas. Members can also look forward to a variety of webinars over the coming months, which will focus on the different challenges ahead for the industry and how to overcome them.


“There is no question in our mind that we need to counteract the continuation by the anti-farming lobby of their campaign to vilify and belittle domestic food producers.  These attacks are corrosive and grossly misleading, negatively influencing consumer perception of the industry and influencing political agendas on a global scale.”
Mr Rickman added that 2021 is an important year for these types of conversations.
“Knocking on our door are the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26. The FUW has been engaging with these conversations at an international level and shares some concerns with other industries across the globe about the wider narrative and ambitions set out in inconspicuous looking documents. Plans, we and the general public don’t support.  Telling the positive story of the guardians of our Welsh land is now more important than ever,” he said.
Starting in the first week of June, the campaign introduces four farmers all of whom tell the story of how they are addressing environmental and climate change needs in their unique ways: Carmarthenshire organic sheep farmer Phil Jones, the Roberts family from Meirionnydd, Ceredigion dairy farmers Lyn and Lowri Thomas and FUW President Glyn Roberts who farms with his daughter Beca at Dylasau Uchaf in Snowdonia.

“The campaign will further highlight that Welsh farmers are rising to the challenge of improving soil health and increasing organic matter in soils, improvements which represent further opportunities for sequestering more carbon. These improvements, the campaign will highlight, are achieved through specific livestock grazing patterns and rest periods. The campaign is also clear that the correct options, guidance and rewards are required to encourage more farmers to adopt such systems,” said Mr Rickman.


Soil, the campaign will stress, is a long term investment and at present, around 410 million tonnes of carbon is stored in Welsh soils and 75,700 hectares of Wales’ woodland (25%) is on farmland, representing an important and growing carbon sink.

“As acknowledged in Natural Resources Wales’ State of Natural Resources Report, using land for food production is an essential part of natural resource use and management.  Whilst we acknowledge that  agricultural intensification has undeniably had negative impacts on some species and ecosystems, there is overwhelming evidence that other factors, including reductions in agricultural activity and afforestation, have also had severe negative impacts,” he added.

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Farming

Carmarthen producer wins best sausage in Wales award

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RED VALLEY FARM in Carmarthen is celebrating coming first in Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’s ‘Put Your Best Sausage Forward 2022’ competition, with their wild garlic sausages crowned as the very best bangers in Wales.

Business partners Andy Washbourne and Graeme Carter were delighted with the victory, with the high-flying producers taking the coveted award for the second year running. As winners, they will now automatically qualify for the ‘Champion of Champions’ sausage competition at the UK-wide Butcher Shop of the Year 2023 awards.

Speaking after winning the title during a special event at the Royal Welsh Show, Graeme Carter said: “It really is an incredible honour to have our sausages named as the very best in Wales. Winning an award like this really makes all the hard work worthwhile and shows that our ethos of producing quality, small-scale and locally produced pork pays off in the end.

“We were really proud of our wild garlic sausages, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to win the title. We had a really good time at the final judging event and the fact that the standard was so high amongst all the shortlisted finalists just goes to show what a fantastic pork industry we have in Wales.

“Since taking over the farm from my parents a few years ago, specialising in rearing pigs has really turned into a passion for me and Andy. We were gifted one boar to help clear the ground following some tree planting and everything has literally grown from there. We just plan to go from strength to strength and concentrate on what we do best, which is quality, sustainably produced pork.

“We’re now really looking forward to be representing Wales at the ‘Champion of Champions’ sausage competition and hope to be crowned the best across the whole of the UK.”

Red Valley Farm pipped Haverfordwest’s Prendergast Butchers and Puff Pigs of Ynysybwl to the title, wowing the panel of judges including leading Welsh food personality Chris ‘Flamebaster’ Roberts.

Chris said: “Nobody likes a banger more than me and the quality of those that made the final meant it was certainly a pleasure to be on the judging panel.

“It’s always really tough to choose a winner when the standard is so high, but right from the off we were impressed with the wild garlic sausages. They looked the part, the consistency was spot on and they just tasted amazing. Having now had a sample of them I’m pretty keen to get my hands on the recipe myself to try and work out the secret of making sausages taste so good!”

Speaking about his delight at the standard of entries to this year’s competition, Rhys Llywelyn, Market Development Manager at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales, said: “It was fantastic to be back at the Royal Welsh Show to hold the awards and the standard of the three finalists certainly didn’t disappoint. However, in the end Red Valley Farm just about came out on top, so a huge congratulations to them and we wish them the best of luck at the UK ‘Champion of Champions’ finals.

“Our small-scale pork producers in Wales have a fantastic story to tell. They specialise in creating a unique, hand-reared product that is often only available to buy directly from themselves and local independent shops, like butchers. This makes it a more sustainable food product, generating fewer food miles, and I’d urge consumers to seek out their local producer and find out for themselves the fantastic quality that’s on offer.”

For more information on pork produced in Wales, and where you can buy it, please visit porcblasus.cymru.

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Farming

Children’s competition aims to tackle farming industry’s continuing poor safety record

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KEEPING children safe on farms has always been a challenge and it is an issue that has been debated and argued for as long as Farm Safety Week has been running.

If the family business were medicine or construction, there would be little chance of a child wielding a scalpel or shingling a roof. But on a family farm, children as young as 10 years old are driving quads and tractors and doing work that part of rural life. However, what should not be part of rural life is putting children at risk when carrying out work around the farm.

Sadly, despite the best efforts of parents to keep their children safe, accidents can occur with tragic unpredictable events, having far-reaching consequences and devastating results.

One family using their own heartbreaking experience to make a safety plea are the Bunford family from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. They spoke exclusively to ITV News Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas in March about the events of 6th September 2021, when their lives changed forever and why they are now working with the Farm Safety Foundation to try and prevent this from happening to another family in the future.

It was like any other morning for the Bunford family and -the last day of the school summer holidays for nine year-old Tomos, before the start of a new academic term in the Cynon Valley. One of the first jobs of the day was to take water for the cattle grazing on land near Blaenllechau – an activity the family had done together many times.

Dad Rhys, Mum Louise, oldest son Gethin, Tomos and baby Clemmie set off in the pick-up truck with the water bowser on the back. But as soon as they entered the field, alarm bells started ringing – as they could feel the truck and the bowser sliding down the field.

“We could hear the panic in the children’s voices” Louise told Hannah in the report. “They were asking us what they should do.”

“I made the decision that we should all get out” continued Rhys. “If the truck had gone over the cliff at the bottom of the field, we could have all died.”

The family exited the vehicle with Louise managing to push Tomos clear of the doors and pass baby Clemmie to big brother Gethin. But when Rhys looked around, he saw the water bowser heading in Tomos’ direction and he was hit.

After the collision, Louise ran for help while Rhys performed CPR on their son. He continued until the emergency services arrived and they carried on treatment for two hours, but tragically it was too late.

“We were doing a task we had done as part of our routine for years” said Rhys. “It was nothing out of the ordinary. The field conditions weren’t different, the level of water in the bowser was the same, and the vehicles did not fail post-accident safety checks. But please, we want the farming community to learn from us losing Tomos, and stop and think. You can’t be over cautious. Ask yourself what the risks are from doing any job.”

Over the past decade, an average of 1 or 2 children every year lose their lives on GB farms. Farms can be dangerous places for everyone, but children are even more vulnerable when playing, visiting or helping out around the farm.

There is no doubt that they are wonderful places for children to grow up and many children are keen to help out their parents with farm work, however, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it.

As Rhys says: “Assess each situation first. No job is worth the agony of burying a child.”

This is why the Bunford family are teaming up with the Farm Safety Foundation and Wales Farm Safety Partnership to recruit children in rural primary schools across Wales, to help get the farm safety message across to their parents via a creative and educational new competition.

In the weeks to come, invitations will be sent to all rural primary schools to invite pupils to get creative and illustrate some simple farm safety messages – what the risks are, and how to avoid them.

As Farm Safety Foundation manager Stephanie Berkeley says: “Children see things so clearly, in a way that adults don’t, which makes the idea of getting them to come up with a safety calendar an inspired one.”

“The message is simple, but the possibilities are wide open for children to get creative. I look forward to seeing the entries when they come in. As a thank you for taking part, we will be sending each schoolchild who enters the competition, a copy of the final calendar which they can display in the home offering a gentle reminder for the whole family to avoid harm on the farm each and every day.”

The competition which is being launched today at Royal Welsh Show, will be open to all children of Primary School age in Wales. A judging panel will meet and choose their favourite 12 entries. These entries will then appear as one of the months in the 2023 family planner.

The competition will run from 5 September 2022 closing on 26 October 2022. For more information and Terms and Conditions please visit www.yellowwellies.org.

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Farming

Powys farmer wins M&S farming award

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FIFTH-generation Welshpool farmer, Ed Gittins, has been announced as the regional winner of this year’s Low Carbon Farming Pioneer Award in the M&S Select Farm Awards.

As the regional Low Carbon Farming Pioneer winner, Ed was invited to receive his award during the M&S Select Farm Awards ceremony on the M&S stand at this year’s Royal Welsh Show. The judges commended Ed for his commitment to creating a low carbon poultry system.

Alongside his brother James, Ed took over running the family farm which consists of beef and sheep enterprises across their main farm, as well as two upland hill farms. They also operate a poultry farming enterprise with 325,000 birds across six sheds and have been supplying M&S since 2017.

Establishing the poultry enterprise initiated the start of a plan to create a low carbon farming system that was beneficial for both the business and the planet.

“For some time, we been figuring out how we can make our farm more efficient in a way that helps with the bottom line and is more environmentally friendly,” explains Ed. “It is great that we are now in position where it is benefitting the farm and we can support the UK with its low carbon targets.”

As a result, the farm now has several biomass boilers to provide the top heating for the chicken sheds, and a ground source heating system to provide underfloor heating. They also have an anaerobic digestor which is powered with farm by-products and slurry from a local dairy farm. All electricity needed to run the farm is produced on-site, and a sizeable proportion is also sold back to the grid. In the future they are aiming to use an anaerobic digestor to produce biogas to power their tractors and other farm machinery.

Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, said: “Every day, our Select Farmers and suppliers go to extraordinary lengths to deliver great quality M&S food, whilst demonstrating best-in-class innovation, animal welfare, sustainability and biodiversity.

“Exploring methods of low carbon farming is an important part of the industry’s future. Ed has already demonstrated great progress in creating a farming system which is centred on environmental sustainability and should be commended for his plans to continually improve the environmental sustainability of his farm.”

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