Brian Thomas was born the eldest of three children on a dairy farm in North Pembrokeshire. Leaving school at 15 with no qualifications, he went back home to work on the family dairy farm. At the age of 23 he married Eiryth and took on a tenancy of 70 acres of land from his parents and started milking 25 dairy cows. Having built a home on the land, he started to look at expanding the herd, but in order to do this a large amount of investment was required in the milking and housing facilities. At the time he had no capital so decided to
concentrate on rearing heifers, and by the time he had sufficient capital, milk quotas had been introduced which put a stop to his plans.
As a result he changed direction and moved into beef and sheep production. In addition, he took over the running of the small agricultural store in the village which proved to be the start of his business diversification activities.
In 1988 he inherited the land and decided to make the most of the asset by selling it and purchasing his current farm, Llwyncelyn Lan, which extends to 280 acres. By 1996 the holding carried 200 beef cattle and 600 ewes, together with some cereals, but, like many, his business was devastated by BSE and three hard years followed. At the same time his herd was also hit by bovine TB and whilst he had always wanted to farm, he could see the need to diversify his business interests.
As a result he purchased an under utilised MOT workshop and pertol station in Crymych together with the adjoining Welsh book and craft shop. Building up the business with his wife, they eventually employed five fitters and two shop workers and more than quadrupled the turnover. In 2005 he decided to lease out the workshop side of the garage and in 2008 he and Eiryth received an offer for the whole business and decided to sell up in order to spend more time farming.
Currently he is establishing a herd of pedigree beef shorthorn cattle, is increasing the size of his sheep flock and is growing 50 acres of spring cereals. The development of a new garage and MOT station in Crymych is now complete and the tenant moved in for business in early March.
In 1996 when BSE hit the industry, Brian became one of the lead campaigners in South West Wales opposing the importation of inferior beef into Wales. Having heard a report on the BBC regarding protests at Holyhead harbour he arranged a meeting in Crymych and addressed over 1500 farmers. In 1997 he lead a group of 10 farmers to the Tesco’s stand at the Royal Welsh Show to address them about the unfair way in which they were treating the industry.
Between 1996 and 1998 Brian spent a lot of time dealing with the press and giving the industry’s side of the story, whilst also liaising with farmers. He also attended meetings at the Welsh Office to discuss the issue of BSE at the request of Robert Foster of the NBA.
Boving TB is also a subject which Brian is passionate about. When his herd went down with the disease in the late 1990s he commented in interviews that the disease would be more of a problem than BSE would ever be if it was not tackled. Unfortunately, for many he has been proved right and currently he sits on the local working group for the Assembly’s Bovine TB Intensive Action Area in North Pembrokeshire, representing farmers in the area.
Brian is a past County Chariman of the FUW in Pembrokeshire, has previously sat on the Union’s central Tenant’s Committee and was elected South Wales Member of the Central Finance and Organisation Committee in 2011. He has been a local primary school governor for a number of years. During this time his ability not to give into pressure and to argue his corner helped to ensure that one of his local primary schools which was earmarked for closure was actually saved. He also sat on Clydey Community Council for over twenty years and helped create the junior section of Crymych Rugby Club, which now has 100s of children attending every week.
Brian and Eiryth have two grown up sons.