By Jeff Gwillim.
My family have farmed the land above Talgarth since the 1700s and, in this time, much has changed and we are constantly learning to adapt to these changes.
We run a traditional all-grass hill farm. That is a farm that produces lambs for market, the majority of which have grazed the fields and hills and received no supplementary feed in the form of sheep nuts or grain.
We cannot and do not intensively farm our sheep as the land would not support this extra stock without creating economic, welfare and environmental problems – the more intensively we would farm, the more problems we would have.
I do not have an agricultural college background but have learnt from past generations who have handed down their knowledge of what does and doesn’t work in the harsh environment of this particular hill farm. I can call on the help and support of outside organisations but I believe that the conditions and qualities of this and other hill farms are not always understood by those organisations and individuals who believe they are best qualified to advise.
I believe that people today are so far removed from nature and the land that they have lost the connection with where their food comes from and how it is produced. I hope that the Black Mountains College can go some way to help in the re-establishing of this valuable and indeed necessary link.
Black Mountains College students will have a valuable role to play in developing future communications between communities and land users and can help educate and advise future policy-makers, consumers and visitors to the area.
The policy-makers and in turn, their policies, will have a huge impact on not only the landscape but the way it is farmed by people like me. Some past government policies would have worked better if policy-makers had sought the advice and used the knowledge of people like myself who were and are knowledgeable on the landscape and environment and more than happy to share this knowledge. There must be an awareness that any scheme must work for the benefit of farming and the environment because they are both so reliant on each other to succeed. The decisions need to be made by people who are informed and aware of all aspects of farming and land management and natural resources and who clearly understand the impact of their decisions on all interested parties.
My father used to say that people have gone as far forward as they can and there will come a time when they will have to look back to see which way to move forward… I believe that time has come.