The heart of our agricultural communities

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

Growing up in the eighties (I won’t go into too much detail, or secrets will be revealed about my age!), there wasn't much talk about going abroad on holidays. The highlight of every holiday for me was going to the local mart, in Aberystwyth or Tregaron. I loved walking up and down every alley admiring the stock, but that of course could take some time, when you’d stop to talk to different people. 

To this day, mart day remains an important day, and after a long wait, the buzz returned to the heart of Carmarthen mart at the beginning of the month. There was a lot of looking forward to seeing the mart reopening as it is the local mart for many of our members in and around Carmarthenshire and offers great and convenient facilities for sellers and buyers.

Carmarthen mart is now run by Nock Deighton Agricultural LLP, but what exactly is the importance of securing a local mart for farmers? Here is Mark Burgoyne of the company to tell us more: “It is not always obvious to the general public what a livestock market is all about, but market closures create a massive vacuum in the agricultural community which cannot be easily filled. It is great news that Carmarthen Mart opened again on 2nd March 2022,” explains Mark.

“Market day gives farmers time off the farm, where they can sell their livestock and turn them into cash at the fall of the auctioneer’s gavel. For centuries the livestock market has been the social hub of the rural sector where like-minded country folk can talk about the matters that interest or concern them, usually in the comfort of the mart café. Farmers who quite often work alone in very remote areas would not see many people if it was not for the livestock market.

“Associated traders quite often attend market day and other trading is carried out, ensuring the day is more than worthwhile for everybody concerned.

“The Partners of Nock Deighton Agricultural LLP are fully committed to the sector and now run three livestock markets in Wales and Shropshire.”

In rejoicing that the mart is back in Carmarthen, there is also another area in Wales hoping to celebrate in the near future. Cowbridge mart closed a few years ago, but is there a glimmer of hope on the horizon? Here’s Sharon Pritchard, Glamorgan County Executive Officer to tell us more: “At the heart of our agricultural and rural communities is a livestock market.  In some cases the market is just down the road and for others it's a two hour drive,” Sharon explains.

Known as a market town for 750 years, Cowbridge now stands without the hustle and bustle which a Tuesday would bring.  A traditional market town would always bring farmers and their families to carry out their weekly business.  Calling in at the feed merchants, grocery shopping and the important trip to the bank.  The loss of the Livestock Market in Cowbridge was felt across a wide spread area but especially by the local communities -  with the loss of trade to high street businesses and subsequently banking facilities.  After years of selling livestock the market has now been demolished and is now used as a carpark.  

The Mart, The Market no matter which word you use to describe the livestock selling centres, that is not their sole purpose.  Many a debate is held over a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast bringing together the lonely souls who farm week in week out completely isolated.  A place to unburden, to share the worries and to pick you up when things are getting tough.  The market offers a sense of community and that crucial open door which welcomes everyone.   There are a percentage of farmers who live and work in complete isolation and not seeing anyone for weeks is a harsh reality of their occupation. When the worries of an unburdened mind build there can be devastating consequences.

There has never been a more important time in agriculture and the rural communities to come together and to share their worries and concerns.  With agriculture now focused on efficiency and sustainability, we as an industry must now look at how we can reduce emissions. With the demolition of Cowbridge livestock market, the alternative options to sell cattle or sheep is an hour’s drive in either direction.  With restrictrictions is place for hauling livestock over 65km, this is an additional cost for producers to incur, along with the impact on their carbon footprint.  

FUW are in discussion with the local councils to move this project forward.  With conversations with local farmers, younger farmers and those in the surrounding communities, we want to enable the surrounding areas to benefit from an asset which will form part of a Rural Hub or Agri Hub.  We envisage this to have a meeting room, hot desk facilities for all types of business, catering facilities and the building being multi-functioning if possible. We welcome all feedback with what visions our members have for this. Please feel free to call or email with information regarding this project.”

Whilst celebrating the vibrancy of the Carmarthen mart once again, and hopefully we’ll see the same happening in the Cowbridge area in ​​the future, one thing is certain, the local mart is the heart of agricultural communities, long may they continue!