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.”
Carmarthen producer wins best sausage in Wales award
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.
Children’s competition aims to tackle farming industry’s continuing poor safety record
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.
Roy Noble joins campaign to stop mass tree-planting on agricultural land
ONE of Wales’ best-loved broadcasters has joined countryside campaigners in calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to stop mass tree-planting on prime agricultural land, while also urging them to curtail ‘outside interests’ and ‘juggernaut companies’ from doing the same.
Roy Noble, who has been a constant feature on Welsh radio and TV for decades, said in a ‘personal plea to high officialdom’ that he had “real empathy” with farming families who “are out-bid” for land purchases by “financial combines”, who use it to offset their carbon emissions elsewhere by planting trees. He accused them of having “no empathy for, or real understanding of farming or the countryside”.
Appealing to the Welsh public, the OBE recipient argued that taking away agricultural land for tree planting risked limiting Wales’ ability to be self-sufficient and threatened food security.
He said: “The tragic and awful events unfolding in Ukraine and the world’s extreme financial strain currently impacting on our country should focus the mind and underline priorities, one being self-sufficiency. It stands at around 60% in Wales at present I believe, but experts agree, from the farming world and beyond that it could be vastly improved with official support. Of course, we cannot produce everything, but a greater percentage is a realistic goal.”
Mr Noble, who worked as a teacher before embarking on a career in broadcast, argued that tree planting has benefits when done in the ‘right place with the right trees’ stating: “Without a doubt, planting trees is regarded and accepted as a way to combat the climate emergency and global warming, but ‘right trees, right place, right effect’ is, I feel, an acceptable mantra in that process. Planting on productive, rich arable land, surely is not, and, if done, the implication and effect will last generations.”
He pointed at rural communities in the Cothi Valley, Carmarthenshire, where his ‘maternal lineage lived for many generations’ saying: “Many of the farming families, in all areas of Wales affected, are rooted in their land, their hallowed ground attached as it is to their soul and their very being. Many likely go back to the very early farmers. That heritage deserves recognition and respect, for all they have contributed and will continue to do, feeding a need, in food production, co-operating in climate crisis initiatives, and working with government and agricultural bodies on sensible paths.”
The broadcaster’s intervention comes as a petition, launched by Countryside Alliance Wales and now in its third week, continues to collect hundreds of signatures by the day. The petition, which is online, calls on the Welsh Government and NRW to ‘stop purchasing productive farmland to plant trees which threatens our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language’.
It further adds: ‘We are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh Government should further protect our communities from this practice’.
The petition was launched after a Countryside Alliance Freedom of Information request revealed the Welsh Government has spent a staggering £6million buying land with taxpayers’ money.
In February, the Welsh Government announced that new memorial woodlands would be created at three separate sites, including a section of farmland at Brownhill in Carmarthenshire’s Tywi Valley. The plans involve planting at least 60,000 trees, sparking fears that valuable agricultural land will be lost.
In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group – a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in The Shard. It plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to launch a fightback, arguing that the afforestation will be largely made up of conifers that could damage soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.
There are also multiple reports of farmers being targeted through cold-calls made by agents working for investors wanting to buy farmland to plant trees.
Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said: “It is truly a great honour to receive the support of Roy Noble in what is an incredibly important campaign. We cannot stand by and watch productive agricultural land get swallowed up for tree planting initiatives that while well intentioned, have long term, negative, irreversible consequences for farming families in Wales and threaten our ability to produce our own food. Every signature represents a voice and alongside Roy Noble, we urge the Welsh public to ensure their voices are heard by signing our petition today.”
The online petition can be found here: Take action: Save our Welsh farmland (ac-page.com)
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