by Glyn Roberts, FUW President
The Eisteddfod is an important event in the Welsh calendar, and it is great to have an opportunity at the Eisteddfod every year to meet members, local staff and those who are not involved in agriculture. A unique opportunity for us as a union to discuss with individuals and other organiaations about the state of agriculture, and the importance of the industry to Welsh culture, the Welsh language and the Welsh economy.
It is a very special festival, and an opportunity to often bridge town and country, and an opportunity to appreciate and taste a new corner of Wales every year. This year's eisteddfod was special to me for a number of reasons, as it was our chance in the Conwy Valley to welcome the nation to our little corner of Wales. As the eisteddfod had not visited the Conwy Valley since 1989, it was nice to welcome it back, as it is now a colourful, vibrant, cosmopolitan festival, and nice to see that the Union stand was competing with the best of the stands in terms of appeal, colour, and vitality. We were not surprised to receive the award for the best and most welcoming stand. Thank you to everyone involved with the stand over the week, both staff and members.
Following the borderless Eisteddfod in Cardiff last year, it was great to prove that the Conwy County Eisteddfod 2019 still had the atmosphere, with a strong sense of welcome, everyone, of all backgrounds, nationalities and belief, to be part of it. We choose to be Welsh, and I was proud to be part of an event that was so welcoming during such uncertain political times.
Although not a traditional rural festival, the references to agriculture by the Archdruid this year as he recited from the Stone during the Inauguration ceremony was pleasing, about the importance of Welsh produce, and the importance of the Welsh flag when promoting Welsh produce every time.
When thinking about the contribution of all Farmers’ Union of Wales members to the success of this year's Eisteddfod I began to think of them, as members of the Eisteddfod choir, winners of the festival’s main awards, stewards, stallholders and appeal committee members, I soon realised that there were far too many for me to name, and that is a wonderful thing, it is with great pride that I as President realise the enormous contribution our members have made to this year's festival, thank you all.
At the beginning of the week I had an opportunity to take part in a Rewilding panel session in the Societies tent, sharing a stage with Dr Prysor Williams of Bangor University. It was one of the experiences that I have enjoyed most for a long time, as it gave me an opportunity to express my views on an issue that is close to my heart, and to do this while emphasising that rewilding not only threatens Welsh rural communities but the survival and prosperity of Welsh culture.
I quoted poetry from the Archdruid, Myrddin ap Dafydd, Gwilym R Tilsley, William Jones, Nebo, and finished with a quote from the winning Vers Lidre at the Mold Eisteddfod in 1991: "I Ble" Rhodri Jones, Crignant. All the discussions were Encouraging and there was a fairly strong feeling in the audience about the importance of keeping people in the countryside and contributing to our culture, and the threat of re-wilding to this.
One lecture I had looked forward to attending was - Red Meat - greener than you think? - by Doctor Prysor Williams, but unfortunately other duties got in the way. I also had the opportunity to listen to a very interesting lecture by Jeremy Miles on Monday, one particularly relevant to us as a union is the following: "We called for a powerful Council of UK ministers who are independent of governments, to a system of resolving disputes fairly and transparently, we called for an independent secretariat, and we called for a constitutional convention for the United Kingdom to consider how the UK constitution needs to change.”
Although we often disagree with the Government in Cardiff, the above part was interesting, because it stated and demanded something that is almost identical to what we as a Union have called for in the context of future agricultural frameworks.
Tuesday was an opportunity to meet with the Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, discussing our language policy within the Farmers’ Union of Wales. It was good to receive positive feedback from him, and he was happy, that as a Union, we have a balanced and reasonable attitude towards the Welsh language.
On Wednesday, I took part in a panel discussion, organised by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, on the future of the countryside. Although I acknowledged that the Brexit cloud is going to have a far-reaching impact on the future of agriculture I tried to look on the positive side, saying that there is a future for rural Wales with political will to co-operate because in Wales we have resources eg our best resource is the ability to grow grass as well as any other country in the world, we have a top quality product with protected geographic designation (PGI) on our Beef and Lamb which is at the same level as Champagnne in the wine industry.
Great Britain is one of the 5 richest countries in the world, with between 60 and 70 million people living here. With all these resources, and the right will, of course, there is a future for the countryside, but we’ll have to overcome obstacles in order to realise the potential of the countryside.
Friday - Although the Union organised a panel on the future of the countryside I would like to thank the Deputy President, Brian Thomas for stepping in to be part of this panel. I was very pleased to hear that the event had been a success.
Saturday - Two important events for me on Saturday were a tribute to Dan Puw, a stalwart of the union in Meirionnydd, whose contribution to agriculture and rural culture is well known to Wales. It was nice to see a party of singing farmers led by another whom I consider to be a stalwart of Meirionnydd.
Another highlight of Saturday was Rhun Emlyn's lecture: Rhun Emlyn: Llywelyn Fawr; Cymru, Ewrop a Llanrwst. Although this was a lecture about a man who had lived more than 800 years ago, it had a contemporary message, which was interestingly linked to the Crown competition on Monday, when the message in the winning poem was referred to: that there’s a solution for the future in the past. As a Union, the three important points in Llywelyn the Great's reign were elements that we should take into account:
• Promote co-operation and respect for others. Working together as one.
The importance of collaborating with other European countries, and the interdependence between states. He referred to the Conwy Valley Uplands, Ysbyty Ifan in particular and the change in medieval farming, from keeping cattle, to keeping sheep on the mountains.
With the demand for Welsh upland sheep wool on the continent, the farming system was changed to one that mainly produced sheep. It is interesting that farmers of this period have adapted to european markets by being flexible and open to new markets.
I think that the vision of medieval farmers, though primitive in the eyes of many, is far more broad and flexible than the vision of the future of agriculture today, which wants to close the door on european markets rather than work onfacilitating trade between countries.
To end on a positive and interesting note, the ethos of this year's Chair winner, Jim Parc Nest, expressed hope and refusal to accept that we are at the cliff edge as a nation. An important message from him is the importance of the imagination, and possibilities that arise from the imagination, maybe there is a challenge for us as a Union here?