The versatility of Welsh hill farmers is splendidly portrayed on a Powys farm where thousands of soft fruit plants are grown for the commercial and amateur markets in addition to traditional sheep and cattle rearing.
About 30 acres of FUW members Nigel and Sian Fromant's 140-acre farm - over 1,000ft up in the Radnorshire hills at Bryngwyn, near Painscastle - are used for the propagation of soft fruit plants under the name of Welsh Fruit Stocks.
"The farm is totally isolated from other fruit growing areas and the very healthy conditions allow us to grow many of our stocks, especially strawberries, organically," said Nigel.
"Blackcurrant stock bushes are conventionally grown and we can supply up to half a million cuttings annually to many of the Ribena growers across the UK.
"In the past this has been a traditional livestock rearing farm and so is in excellent heart. We still have sheep and cattle and this allows us to naturally maintain fertility, to use long rotations and to utilise our permanent pastures and hill grazing."
There is a closed flock of 200 mainly Radnor-cross Welsh ewes, crossing with Texel tups, to produce organic fat lambs sold through nearby organic livestock marketing group Graig Farm Producers and ewe lamb replacements are also bred.
Eight Welsh Black cows are crossed with a Hereford bull, the calves of which are kept on, selling beef direct to neighbours, friends and family.
"The livestock utilises the steeper, poorer fields and provide farmyard manure for the organic system and help create the rotations needed for the fruit propagation," said Sian.
"The organic fruit plants are sold to gardeners by mail order across the UK, selling mainly from our web site. Smaller pick your own businesses, organic growers, nurseries and a few larger scale raspberry growers are also supplied.
"High altitude and isolation helps to maintain the high health status of the plants, which are grown under the Plant Health Propagation Scheme. Minimal pesticides are used on the conventional stocks and natural products are used to maintain the health of the organic plants.
"Weed control is predominantly by hand and a committed, mainly local workforce of up to 10 is employed throughout the summer and for lifting the plants during the winter months. Some neighbouring farmers who work for us regard it as a form of diversification."
During a visit to the farm, FUW president Gareth Vaughan said it had been a great pleasure to hear about such a truly unique business, not only in terms of the farm itself, but also because of the geography of the land on which the enterprise is carried out.
"This type of diversification is a lesson to us all. While growing fruit, alongside running beef and sheep enterprises, is certainly unusual, perhaps it is an indication of the type of branching out we should all be looking at to some extent.
"Wales's unique landscape means livestock and forage farming will be always be central to Welsh agriculture. In fact, in a world of growing concern over climate change and rising populations, it would be irresponsible not to raise livestock on places that cannot be used in other ways to produce food, whatever ridiculous remarks are made by think tanks and policy advisers about eating less meat.
"However, we should certainly not rule out other types of farming where viable and, given the increasing and much needed focus on local food procurement, we are likely to see this type of diversification being carried out far more in future.
"We are, therefore, indebted to the Fromant family for showing us what is possible if we use our imaginations and 'think outside the box' so to speak. We are also very proud to have the Fromants as FUW members."
The business was started originally by Sian's late father Stephen Joyce in the 1960s when he grew blackcurrant cuttings for Herefordshire growers. He expanded into producing strawberry plants when he purchased Grug Farm in the late 1970s and then successfully began propagating raspberry canes.
"His adage would have been: it's not how much land you have, it's what you do with it that's important," said Sian.
She and Nigel, who met while studying at the Welsh Agricultural College in Aberystwyth, took over the business in 1991 and slowly expanded the sales to gardeners, concentrating in supplying high quality plants at reasonable prices. Last year, the farm grew some 15,000 blackcurrant, white currant, redcurrant, gooseberry and jostaberry (a gooseberry/blackcurrant hybrid) bushes, 40,000 raspberry canes and 130,000 strawberry plants.
They began organic conversion in 2000, set up a website to advertise their plants and added a shop to the site in 2003. Their 23-year-old daughter Jess, who has studied computer science and psychology at Swansea University, now deals with customer care and runs the website which has seen web sales steadily increase to well over 75% of total gardener sales.
Sian said: "The business has been growing nursery fruit bushes for 45 years now and when we found that the other types of fruit grew so well up here at Bryngwyn, we increased the range to include all the major types. We buy in the parent stocks at the highest health status available, to ensure that our plants are the healthiest possible.
"Our customers tell us that the plants respond rapidly to softer environments and establish quickly. They have also been impressed by the vigour of the plants and the quality of their root systems.
"We believe that by reducing any stresses on the plants - and animals - a lot of the common problems can be reduced. Being on the edge of several different habitats - heather moorland, ancient woodland, traditional grassland and small areas of wetland - the biodiversity is unique.
"It is good to be able to encourage the wildlife on the farm. We have recorded over 60 species of birds seen here, from redstarts to red kites.
"We take great care of our plants throughout the seasons. We multiply our own parent stock wherever possible to give us control from the earliest stage.
"The raspberries, strawberries and parent bushes are entered into the Plant Health Propagation Scheme and are health inspected at intervals throughout the growing season.
"Being members of several fruit breeding programmes we have access to many of the new improved varieties, but we also continue to grow some of the old favourites that rightly maintain their popularity. We hold one of the largest ranges of blackcurrant varieties including many of the new, more disease resistant 'Ben' varieties.
"We are fortunate to have a mainly local, skilled staff, including other family members, who work with the plants all year round. It is their dedication, in all weathers, together with careful day-to-day management that ensures the high quality of our plants.
"Throughout the growing season we rely on hand hoeing, weeding and cultivation to keep the crops clean and to reduce the stress on the plants. Through the autumn, winter and spring, the plants are lifted, hand selected and carefully packed ready for dispatch.
"We use a 24-hour delivery service or Royal Mail first class post to ensure the plants reach our customers in prime condition."