Farm safety and the environment hotly debated at Meirionnydd farm visit

The importance of staying safe on-farm and the benefits of producing food with the environment in mind, were topics high on the agenda at a recent farm visit in Meirionnydd. 

Opening the gates to their beef and sheep farm to host the event, were FUW Meirionnydd county chairman Sion Ifans and wife Gwawr. The couple farm at Brynuchaf, Llanymawddwy. 

The farm extends to 370 hectares, the majority of which is mountain land, and is a typical Meirionnydd upland farm.  

Here they keep a flock of 900 Welsh mountain ewes, and 15 suckler cows. All store stock is sold through farmers marts, with all the finished lambs sent to Randall Parker Foods in Llanidloes or via Farmers Marts at the livestock auction in Machynlleth.

The farm has also been in the Glastir scheme since 2014, and there is a long history of participation in agri-environment schemes such as Tir Cymen in the early 1990’s when Meirionnydd was chosen as a pilot area for the scheme. Thereafter, the farm joined the Tir Gofal scheme until the opportunity came to join Glastir. 

To supplement the farm income, Sion also works self-employed on a part-time basis with Farming Connect and Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions and wife Gwawr is employed by Conwy Council as a translator. 

Welcoming a delegation of local farmers and showcasing the various elements of the Glastir scheme, Sion said: “We have always cared deeply for the environment here at Brynuchaf and think that food production and looking after the land, go hand in hand. 

“As food producers, we are subjected to all weather and are just as exposed as everyone else to climate change and the extremes it brings. 

“But are we going to achieve what we set out to- reducing greenhouse gas emissions and feeding the nation- by supporting countries who produce food to standards that would be illegal in this country? Or by importing food from thousands of miles away? The answer I believe is no.

“The UK is supposed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, yet our food system is vulnerable and dominated by complex global supply chains.  As farmers we have the knowledge, skill, and willingness to produce sustainable food, that works in harmony with the environment but we need to be allowed to do our job.

“If we want to save the environment and feed the nation, let’s focus on food that has been produced locally; food that has been produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.”

Those joining the farm tour also heard from Alun Edwards, Wales Farm Safety Partnership Ambassador, about the importance of keeping safe on the farm.

Alun Edwards emphasised the importance of managing risk and implementing best practices in farmers’ daily work, and to stop, think, and be safe.  Referring to the atrocious record of agriculture compared to other industries, he stressed that we must absolutely address the problem. 

“The truth is that farming is a hazardous industry. We work with potentially dangerous machinery, vehicles, chemicals, livestock, at height or near pits and silos. 

“It is also pretty clear that as an industry we are terrible at keeping ourselves and family members safe from harm. The numbers confirm the most tragic of incidents but don’t include the little accidents, which maybe should serve as a warning. 

“Farms are busy working areas, and we must recognise the potentially serious hazards. It is so vital that the industry works together to spread the word on the importance of farm safety, and I encourage all those involved to tap into support, guidance and the training available,” said Alun Edwards.

FUW Meirionnydd County Executive Officer Huw Jones added: “On behalf of our members I would like to thank Sion and Gwawr for hosting this informative event and of course Alun Edwards for keeping farm safety firmly on the agenda.”