Honours for Welsh farming leaders

7 July 2016

Eight hardworking and deserving industry leaders have this year been given the honour of being made associates of the Royal Agricultural Societies for their contribution to the agricultural and rural industries in Wales.

The Welsh National Panel and the National Moderators Panel for the Council of Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies scrupulously consider the many applications made each year and in 2016, so far, eight of the applications for the award were deemed of a high enough standard to be granted the coveted title of associate.

Amongst the successful applicants was Mr Richard Gibb of Colwinston, Glamorgan with his submission of ‘Promoting dairying’. Mr Gibb first became passionate about the dairy industry and how sound research is key to improvements in production efficiency whilst conducting studies at the National Institute for Research in Dairying at Shinfield, Reading. Putting his findings to good use, Mr Gibb worked within the industry demonstrating how targeting fertiliser use would increase grasses and arable crop production. Mr Gibb now works as a dairy specialist with BOCM Pauls covering the whole of South Wales and works tirelessly to help improve the efficiency of milk production in the region.

Mr Thomas Stephenson of Cornist, Flintshire was also successful with this submission of ‘My contribution to youth in agriculture and to preservation of rural life skills and crafts’. As a life-long member of the Clwyd Young Farmers Federation, Mr Stephenson has committed over 50yrs to the movement and trained many young members in rural skills, especially stock judging. Mr Stephenson encourages the members of young farmers clubs to learn as many skills and go on to use them in community life. Mr Stephenson has also been a dedicated supported of the Denbigh and Flint Agricultural Show for more than half a century, where he has been instrumental in the survival of the annual show and the financial success of the society.

With his submission on ‘The development of an upland farm under organic management’, Mr Dafydd Parry Jones of Penegoes, Powys was also awarded an associateship. On his 470 acre farm, Mr Jones has proved that due to his exceptional management an upland farm with poor soil can achieve high quality organic forage and outstanding beef and sheep. Stock on the farm are selected to work in harmony with the organic forage system and aimed towards the premium market. The farm has hosted national and European events and in the last ten years, Mr Jones has been the recipient of many industry awards as a result of the improvements he has made to the farm.

Mr Robert Powell of Builth Wells, Powys was also successful with his submission of ‘Better utilisation of grass’. Mr Powell farms a total of 690 acres spread between two farms along with a grazing licence for the Mynydd Epynt. The herd of 150-200 Welsh Black sired cattle, finished on home-grown rations, are sold to Waitrose through the Wye & Towy Valley Welsh Black Beef Marketing Group, of which Mr Powell was chairman for five years.  The 2,000 ewes are split into three flocks and with all the livestock, the aim is to fatten all stock off good quality grass and silage to cut down on bought concentrates. The farms have been used as demonstration farms for Farming Connect with two open days as well as hosting smaller group visits to show the latest methods of best practice.

With her submission on ‘My equine world and services to the agricultural community within shows in various roles’, Mrs Cynthia Higgon of Crundale, Pembrokeshire was also awarded an associateship. Mrs Higgon has been a dedicated supporter of the Royal Welsh Show for many years, sitting on numerous committees, including the board of directors and stewarding for over 30 years. Likewise, Mrs Higgon has been a staunch supporter of the Pembrokeshire County Show and many pony club shows and rallies. Well respected for her work with young people, Mrs Higgon has helped with the Pembs RDA for many years and volunteered for Barnardos for over 20 years helping children to ride and taking them to shows to enjoy themselves. Having ridden and trained Point to Point horses all her life, Mrs Higgon has also been heavily involved with various local and national Point to Point associations and been presented with awards as a sign of her commitment.

Mr Elfyn Owen of Llanddoged, Conwy with his submission of ‘Improving Blue-faced Leicester sheep’, was also successful. Mr Owen was one of the founder members of the group which began the Sire Reference Scheme in 1997, to record the performance of his Blue-faced Leicester rams with the aim of raising standards. This good practice has enabled development of the breed and resulted in substantial improvements. Being instrumental in the formation of the Progressive Breeders group in 2012, Mr Owen aimed to promote the benefits of using high ‘index’ rams when crossing with the mountain ewe to produce the Mule. Mr Owen has been the president of both the Welsh Mule Society and the Blue-faced Leicester Sheep Society, as well as the Welsh Chairman and National President of the former.

Mr John Owen of Gelli Aur, Carmarthenshire was successful with his submission of ‘Milk proves its value on Welsh Dairy Farms’. Mr Owen has been instrumental in establishing the specialist Dairy Unit at Gelli Aur Collage Farm, concentrating on producing milk from forage whilst maintain a strong educational focus. Along with his role at the college, his Nuffield Scholarship studies and his work with the Welsh Government, in particular with the Rural Development Plan for Wales, the Grass Value Project and the South West Wales TB Eradication Board, Mr Owen’s knowledge of grassland and dairy systems is extensive and continues to provide the dairy industry, particularly in Wales, with expertise and opportunities.

The eighth successful applicant to be awarded with an associateship is Mr Julian Radcliffe of Penmark, Vale of Glamorgan with his submission of ‘Farming development and extension’. Mr Radcliffe’s farming practices are based on a sound rotation, suitable varieties, seed bed preparation and attention to details. Regular soil analysis, along with fertiliser use, disease control and specialist mechanical equipment has been the basis of his success. A new grain dryer and storage facilities have supported Mr Radcliffe’s marketing of his high quality crops. The sheep and beef are also an integral part of the farming system, with quality finished animals sold at a premium to many local restaurants and hotels. Along with many merits and awards, Mr Radcliffe’s farm has been selected as an AHDB Cereals and Oil Seed monitor farm, the only one in Wales.  

“Once again the standard of submissions was extremely high and CARAS Wales and the National Moderator’s Panels are pleased to acknowledge how fortunate the Welsh agricultural industry is to have such influential and enthusiastic leaders.” says Mr Cyril Davies, Royal Welsh Agricultural Society representative on the CARAS council and a member of the National Moderator’s Panel.

“We are delighted to award these eight very worthy applicants with an associateship and look forward to welcoming them to the Royal Welsh Show later this month to be presented with their award.”

All successful candidates will be officially presented with their awards at a reception held on the Tuesday evening of the 2016 Royal Welsh Show.