Young farmer from Llanarmon makes plea for more help for newcomers

Reporter:

Gwyn Griffiths

Farming is not a career many a parent will willingly recommend to their children.

With agricultural incomes as low as £13,000 for new starters in the industry is it little wonder there is an exodus of talent from traditional farming communities in North East Wales?

Latest Welsh Government figures suggest an ageing farming workforce with the average owner of a holding aged over 60 and just three per cent under 35.

But one young farmer from Glyn Ceiriog is charting her own path of independence and wants to see fresh blood reviving a sector thrown into uncertainty in a post-Brexit world.

Caryl Hughes, 26, says the difficulties youngsters face getting onto the rungs of the industry’s ladder look insurmountable without some extra help.

She believes young farmers should heed the words of the wise and those farmers whose careers are drawing in.

Her idea for a match-making scheme for young and older farmers has already been trialled by the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.

And she would also like the Welsh Government to intervene and make it harder for established landowners and big business to buy up farmland which could be offered to young farmers.

Caryl is full of ideas and inspiration for farming, which is little surprise as it has been in her family’s blood for five generations.

The beef and sheep farmer, from Llanarmon, has linked up with her grandmother Jean Hughes and father and mother, Rheinallt and Liz Hughes, to achieve her dream of running her own farm.

Their financial backing has meant she has been able to take on a 300-acre tenancy four miles away from the main farm, Tu Hwnt i’r Afon at Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog near Llangollen.

“Getting on the ladder is the hardest thing facing young people in the industry. The competition for land in most areas is fierce with many of us being priced by larger expanding farms,” she says.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a family farm where my brother Iwan and I will be the fifth generation.

“I had the farm behind me and my parents are very supportive, but for those who haven’t got that, it’s a big struggle. Bank managers are very sceptical about lending money for new farms.

“More has to be done to provide an entry route for the next generation of farmers as we’re losing a lot of talented people that are going to find other jobs.”

Caryl knows the importance of lobbying industry and political figures in her role as vice-chairman of Montgomeryshire Young Farmers Club.

When the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths paid a recent visit to her parents’ farm, she was not slow telling the Wrexham AM that much more needed to be done to help prospective young farmers.

She may have been fortunate to learn on the job under her parents’ guidance – in partnership with her family she also runs around 30 suckler cows and followers.

But her dedication to a farming career has taken her across the world, from a beef and sheep station in New Zealand to studying shepherding in the French Alps.

She is no stranger to hard work having worked with a shearing gang in Norway.

Despite the uncertainties after Brexit, she retains her optimism for farming.

“I love running the family farm with my parents and hope to concentrate on the sheep enterprise mainly.

“I wasn’t a fan of leaving the EU, but the decision has been made and we need to look at it with a positive attitude for the industry.

“This is our time as young people to really put our stamp on our futures,” she says.

With that in mind the Farmers’ Union of Wales opened the door of its pavilion to welcome young farmers at last month’s Royal Welsh Show and the FUW’s Younger Voice for Farming Chairman Darren Williams admits: “It was brilliant to have the younger voices of our industry join us for a networking event and listening to them about their hopes and fears for the future.

“We need the next generation of farmers to be involved and let us know exactly what they want from their future industry.”

The FUW’s marketing and membership manager Teleri Fielden has followed in Caryl’s footsteps by taking up a Llyndy Isaf Scholarship, a partnership between the National Trust and Wales YFC, which gives young farmers the chance to run an upland farm in Snowdonia for a year with a salary and accommodation provided.

“There are so many keen talented young people wanting to get into the industry. It’s going to be a real lost opportunity if we don’t reduce the barriers holding many of them back,” says Teleri.

“My parents don’t have a farm, so it has been challenging to try and find a way in. It would be good to see more scholarship schemes which provide an inroad for those who may not be able to take over a family farm or who just want to run one in their own right.”

The FUW has called for an action plan for young farmers. President Glyn Roberts wants financial incentives to encourage “ageing” farmers who “can’t afford to retire” to step aside and free up land, while he urges councils to stop selling off their land holdings.

“I had the chance when I was young to come into agriculture through being a tenant – there have to be farms coming up for rent as someone new coming into the industry is not going to be able to buy. So it’s important that council small-holdings are kept,” said Mr Roberts.

Email:

gwyn.griffiths@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Leader

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Most Read