Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hereford Young Farmers

Along with my fellow reporter Beccy Whitefoot I watched the work in progress documentary film Young Farmers at the Borderlines film festival in Hereford.

The film aims to capture the lives of young farmers. Film-maker Anne Cottringer has spent the past year visiting a variety of farms and watching the ups and downs of the farming life. The film is not completely finished yet. The festival was a way of exposing the film as it needs more money to be completed. Anne said she needs about £50,000 to continue filming the final stages and to edit the final feature length film.

The film was impressive. It brought the world of farming into the public domain dealing with political, seasonal and financial difficulties of farmers. It also was an insight into the work that the Young Farmers club does for a young rural generation.
After the 20minute sneak preview of the film some off the young farmers that appeared in the film lead a question and answer session with opened up a forum of farming discussion.

One of the farmers that’s in the film was Jonathan Rogers. He spoke to me afterwards about his farm.
Jonno Young Farmer by bribriwilliams

Also at the meeting was Richard Thomas, a sheep and beef farmer who talked me through his time in the Young Farmers club.

Rich Young Farmer by bribriwilliams

Not only was I impressed by the informative way the young farmers lead the discussion but the vision and enthusiasm that they had.
Richard said “i'm passionate about food production and so the message they are trying to put across with the film is something I was prepared to be a part of.”

The film does indeed show the importance of bringing the younger generation into farming and making it a viable industry to work in. At a lot of farming events I attend all the farmers ask for is a fair price for their product. It seems such a simple request but hard to produce.

Farmers cannot predict the market that their product will be in. The consumer drives the price yet the consumer doesn’t really know the process. Farming is a political problem and maybe a social problem too. Richard drew our attention to the fact that eating around the table in the UK has declined. Having a proper family meal is a rarity. In other cultures more thinking is done about where food comes and why you eat it. They also have a better understanding of where the food comes from. By introducing other cultures and nationalities the discussion quickly moved on to the amount of control the EU has over British farming. Some of the young farmers were calling for more support from the UK Government as at the moment farmers aren’t competing on a level playing field.

The film at Borderlines Festival gave the Young Farmers a platform which I believe so many young farmers desperately need. They are the future of food production in this country and should get all the support they need. At the end of the day, I can live without my mobile phone, I can live without my laptop but I can’t live without food.

Cardiff's Business World

Spark: An Idea for Business

Hundreds of business plans were entered for a chance to win up to £1000 to support an entrepreneurial vision. Those entries were whittled down to 7 finalists and Friday the 19th of February was judgement day.

So let’s meet the judges and find out what they were looking for:

Judge 1 by bribriwilliams

A good pitch, a unique selling point and the ability to make money; those are the orders.

The finalists had 4 minutes to persuade the judges that their business deserved the cash prize. Then the judges had 8 minutes to ask questions and grill the contestants. A bit like a Centerprise dragon’s den.


Josie West
Business: Dinky Ducklings.

Thoughts on the day

Josie 1 by bribriwilliams

After the pitch

Josie 2 by bribriwilliams


Thoughts on the day

Anton 1 by bribriwilliams

After the pitch

Anton 2 by bribriwilliams

Jason and Matt
Business Idea: Lace LTD.

Thoughts on the day

JM1 by bribriwilliams

After the Pitch

JM2 by bribriwilliams

Business Idea: Lusini

Thoughts on the day

DAVID 1 by bribriwilliams

After the pitch

DAVID 2 by bribriwilliams

Lucy Fox
Business: Rift

Thoughts on the day

Lucy 1 by bribriwilliams

After the Pitch

Lucy 2 by bribriwilliams

Dave Stone
Business: UK Loupes

Thoughts on the day

DAVE 1 by bribriwilliams

After the pitch

DAVE 2 by bribriwilliams

Business: MUA

Thoughts on the day

Beth 1 by bribriwilliams

After the pitch

Beth 2 by bribriwilliams

The business ideas were varied which meant the judges had a tough decision on their hands. Some of the applicants were surprisingly calm and others were a nervous wreck. But what really made judges sit up and listen?
Judge 2 by bribriwilliams

£1000 went to UK Loupes, and £500 to Lasuni and Mua.

Winners by bribriwilliams

Have you been inspired by Spark? Get your thinking cap on and if you think you’ve got what it takes to be a young entrepreneur, look out for other schemes that could help you.

Whycenterprise by bribriwilliams

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Farming and New Media

The way we farm is always changing. New technology has helped farmers become more environmentally friendly, more efficient and now more accessible. Many have embraced the internet revolution and have websites advertising their produce and keeping updates about their livestock.

Eira Edwards runs a sheep farm and conference centre in South Wales. Lakeside Farm Park has numerous websites telling you what’s on and what’s been happening around the farm. Eira is also on Twitter and I regularly keep in contact be sending the odd ‘tweet’ when I can.

A government report out today shows that less than half of people over fifteen read a national newspaper.That's down by a third compared to thirty years ago.
So I’ve been finding out how social media and the internet has affected the way farmers get their news and share information.

Farming& the Internet by bribriwilliams

Emma Penny from Farmers Guardian calls on the government to do more to improve broadband access for farmers in coutryside black spots. She says " The government is moving towards getting all businesses to file their accounts and do all their business online. Unless they are willing to to invest money in upgrading the whole of the UK to broadband I think we are going to find that life is quite difficult for a lot of farmers."

Help Haiti Christian Aid Concert

Countries around the world have shown their support for Haiti and at St David’s Hall on Monday 15th February Welsh singers did their bit. What started out as a small dream evolved into a tribute to Welsh talent and an epic fundraiser for Christian Aid’s Help Haiti appeal.

The evening was laced with short films about the tragedy in Haiti which showed us where the money raised will go. The earthquake happened more than 4 weeks ago but the concert has brought it back to the forefront of people’s minds. For the audience it was a mixture of the big acts and the charity appeal that drew in the crowds.

Gwawr Owen the organiser of the event told me the idea came to her when she was in chapel one morning. She thought she could do something with the mixed choir Cor Caerdydd that she conducts. But Gwawr has many music connections and managed to recruit big names such as Rhydian Roberts, Denis O’Neill, Wynne Evans and many more to perform on the night.

The variety of Welsh talent was something to be proud of. I asked Wynne Evans why holding a charity concert like this was a good way or raising money.

“People are more likely to come to a concert than to donate money in the privacy of their own home. More people are willing to part with their cash if they feel they are getting back something in return.”

“It’s nice to catch up with old friends and be part of such a fantastic cause.”

Of course Wynne Evans is known from the ‘Go Compare’ adverts but for tall those in the audience at St David’s he will now be remembered as an outstanding opera singer. Wynne sung the Lord’s Prayer in Welsh and ‘My life belongs to you’ by Ivor Novello. Wynne did joke that he “may as well send the (Go Compare) moustache to concerts and stay at home!” But that certainly wasn’t the case. Wynne only performed in the first act and at the half time interval I spoke to one member of the audience who wanted him back in the second act!

The evening was a show shopping event and drew out Wales’ finest musical acts. Elin Fflur a singer/song writing from North Wales told me what it meant to her to be singing at the event.

“I think you know when we all saw the disaster being shown on television sometimes you do kind of feel a bit useless. So being able to give something, especially through music is quite a big thing for me.”

I think it was a special occasion for all the performers. A glittering variety of music, dance and instrumental performance. Ruth Jones from Gavin and Stacey didn’t sing but came on to the stage to show her support and congratulate everyone for being part of such a worthy cause.

All the acts were outstanding. A lot of the songs were performed in Welsh. Even though I don’t understand Welsh it was still an amazing show. What surprised me the most was my favourite performers of the night, two opera singers. Before attending the concert I wouldn’t have said that I was a big opera fan but thanks to David O’Neill and Natalya Romaniw I have been converted. Dennis has such a powerful and emotive voice that you are captivated by his every word. For me St David’s Hall was the perfect setting for his bass notes and his textured performance. Natalya Romaniw injected her songs with theatre and performance which lifted and seduced the audience into the wonderful sound of opera. Truly outstanding.

We were also treated to a guest appearance from some of the stars of Pobl y Cwm to close the evening. A spectacle of song and dance that left the audience on their feet in a standing ovation to show our appreciation of the performers and our support for Haiti.

Help Haiti Concert by bribriwilliams

Over £11,000 was raised from ticket sales alone but the total figure that the evening raised will not be known until the event is shown on S4C on Sunday 21st of February.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Rabbit: From Field to Pie

Sunday dinner was Rabbit pie. Possibly the most satisfying meal I’ve eaten recently, for a number of reasons.
It tasted it brilliant and it contained rabbit that I killed, skinned and gutted.

I joined Gordon and Rebecca Whitefoot in Herefordshire for a morning of rabbiting.
I’ve never been rabbiting before so it was an experience I enjoyed and will never forget.

Gordon kept his ferrets in a bag draped over his shoulder, a spade in one hand and his Border cross terrier Brandy by his side and we were off.

Over the rolling hills of the Herefordshire countryside Brandy the dog was eager to show us where the rabbits were hiding. Locating the warrens was fairly easy as rabbit holes stand out and they are often surrounded by rabbit droppings. But finding out whether there were rabbits in them was Brandy’s job.

Brandy barked and scrapped the soil where she could smell the rabbits. Then it was time for the rabbit nets to be put over the rabbit holes. Gordon had two ferrets which he used to chase the rabbits out of the warren. One was black and used to doing the job and the other was a white polecat that had only been taken out rabbiting a few times, but it seemed to get the gist of it quickly.

The ferrets wear locators so we know where they are underground and if they’ve been down there too long we can find them.

Gordon explained why rabbiting takes place. Rabbits often sharpen their teeth around the base of a tree which can kill it. Rabbits of course like vegetables and can damage farmer’s crops and household vegetable patches. Rabbiting usually stops around the beginning of March as this is rabbits produce their offspring. Rabbiting is not a way of exterminating the rabbit population, just by keeping it under control.

Rabbiting by bribriwilliams


Tula, Luna Star and Father Ted. They’re just some of Wesley Thomas’ spaniels. I went to visit Wesley’s kennels in Rhymney which is just outside Merthyr Tydfil. It was a cold afternoon, the snow was coming down but the dogs were keen to come out and show us what they could do.

Wesley’s enthusiasm for dog training is infectious. He leads us over to the waiting dogs who are shivering with excitement. Wesley repeats that he is “just an amateur” but there is nothing amateur about the performance his dogs give.

Tula shows her stuff first. She’s still only a puppy but it’s remarkable to see just how much they can do. Tula fetches and sits and chases scented tennis balls. Even though it’s a cold day she can still trace and smell the ball and retrieves it. Already I was impressed and that was only the start.

Luna Star and Father Ted who are fully grown spaniels demonstrated the obedience that gundogs have. They both waited patiently until Wesley gave the command to go and retrieve game dummies. As of course gundogs are used as shooting partners to pick up dead birds and rally the pheasants into the air.
Wesley has a gun which emulates the sound of a shotgun so the dogs get used to the sounds of a real shooting day. Luna and Ted are not disturbed by the shrill noise of the gun, they both just sit until a command is given.

Wesley uses voice commands and a whistle to guide the dogs. It’s amazing to watch. Wesley has shown his dogs in championships in England, Ireland and of course Wales. He described his best moment with Luna Star of Beggarbush at the 2005 Bolton Castle Championship where he was awarded Best Newcomer. Wesley was offered around £20, 000 for Luna Star but he didn’t want to give her up.

Gundog Training by bribriwilliams

Friday, 12 February 2010


You may be short of ideas as to what to get your loved one in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Roses and chocolates may spring to mind, but for a more unique gift how about a lovespoon?
I decided to find out more about lovespoons with my fellow journalist Katie Prescott.

Lovespoons could be seen as just another souvenir that’s found in a tourist shop but the skill of hand carving wooden lovespoons is not dying out. The custom began almost 400 years ago, when the spoons were carved by young Welsh men as a proposal gift, and symbol of their love. Throughout Wales, many people still carry on the tradition, selling lovespoons to customers all over the world. Lovespoons can be personalised and specifically designed to cater for anyone. It can take hours to create a Lovespoon depending on how intricate the pattern is.

Edwin Williams owns a family-run workshop near Swansea. His wife and son help to create a vast array of lovespoons which he sells to shops in Cardiff, Swansea and even across the continent. Edwin has been carving lovespoons for over thirty years. It’s a profession that keeps him and his family busy all year round. But there is a greater demand on Valentines Day and St Dwynwen’s day for people that a more long lasting gift than flowers.

First a template is drawn onto a block of wood and cut out by machine. Then most of the intricate patterns are created by chisel and hammer. They vary in all shapes and sizes and are sold throughout the year, often commissioned for special occasions. They are not just a memento of Wales but a special love token and part of Welsh heritage. From bells, chains and daffodils to dragons and fish, the symbols that can be worked into the spoons are endless.

David Western learnt the trade growing up in Cardiff. He now works full time, carving lovespoons in Canada. Initially his customers came from mainly Welsh backgrounds, but he’s seeing a growing demand for the art from all nationalities “today probably 30-45% of my customers have a Welsh background and the rest have no links to Wales at all…they just like the idea of the lovespoon”.

David believes that to really make a lovespoon, the artist needs to invest “time, talent and emotion. When any of those are missing from the equation, you are left with a wooden stick”.

Here in Cardiff you can see the world's largest lovespoon which was made in 1994 and commissioned by S4C. It resides in the Wales Lovespoon Gallery opposite Cardiff Castle. It was carved out of a single sycamore tree by Ed Harrison of Llandysul and is over 8 metres long. The Wales Lovespoon Gallery is also home to the smallest lovespoon which is almost two thirds the size of a match.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Sheep Tagging in Wales

The Welsh Assembly Government have been holding meetings for sheep farmers to explain the new tagging guidelines. I attended the meeting at Alice Springs Golf Course in Usk to find out the problems farmers face with the new EU guidelines.

The room was full. It seems as though many people wanted the new tagging system to be explained properly. The speaker from the WAG remarked “we have no choice, but we are opposed to it in principle”. It was red tape that the WAG did not want to see put in place. Double tagging was first proposed in 2003 but it has been put off until 2009, and now electronic tagging can’t be put off any longer.

There is no requirement to use EID tags on existing flock but any sheep born after December 31st 2009 must have 2 tags (one electronic) before they are 9 months old, except those that are due for slaughter within 12 months-they only need one tag.
Often slaughter houses require different tags depending on what recording system they use. The advice to farmers was-make sure you know which tag to put on sheep that are sent for slaughter.

Approx Prices:
- Full EID 70p
- Single electronic- 60p
- Slaughter tag- 10p

OLD SHEEP TAGS CANNOT BE USED. This was a fact that upset many farmers who had already bulk bought their tags and didn’t know they wouldn’t be able to carry on using their old tags. If the Welsh Assembly knew the procedures that were going to be put in place, why weren’t farmers told sooner?
One lady farmer I spoke to said she only received a paper copy of the new tagging guidelines last week yet they’ve already started lambing.

Farmers also complained that in Scotland and France the Farmers are getting paid to do this. They are getting more help from the Government where as in Wales there is little.

Farmer2 “if you want a market for your lamb, you have to do this”
Farmer 3 “we all need to play the game but on the same playing field”
Farmer 3 “why can’t English, Scottish and Welsh All be the same”

Some markets and abattoirs have already bought Electronic Recorders which means they will be ‘Central Point Recording’ this means that many farmers wont have to buy recording devices.

BUT-evidence shows that the technology is not 100% accurate but farmers need 100% accuracy in their records. So you almost need to record everything manually just to have a back up as there is a reduction to the single farm payment if records are incorrect.

I’m sure this battle will continue throughout lambing season and we will see the outcome of changes in a few months time. The Welsh Assembly speaker kept saying to the farmers “it’s your choice”- but is it?

Sheep Tagging by bribriwilliams

Friday, 5 February 2010

Cardiff Girl Geeks

At the back of the Terra Nova in Cardiff bay a few tables were sectioned off with pink rope, ready for the Girl Geeks. Bringing women that work in technology together to chat, exchange ideas and get to know other like minded women.
The first Geek Girl Dinner was held in London but the event has spread across the country, worldwide and now has come to Wales.
In Cardiff there were about 30 women and one man at the meeting. Yes men can attend! But only if they are invited by a Geeky Girl. The women were from all walks of life. Employed by a range of companies doing a ‘geeky job’. Web design, digital marketing, animation and software design just some of the professions that make a girl a geek. Some of the women had never met other females that do the same job as them. A unique event.

Chyrelle Rayman-Bacchus was one of the organizers of the evening in Cardiff was pleased with the turnout.

She said "they want to be led by people that come to the sessions. If people want a guest speaker, then great, I'll organize one. We just want it to grown organically because I think on that basis it will be quite strong. What ever the girl geeks of Cardiff want."

Chyrelle started the Geek Girl Dinners because she works in a male dominated office and a lot of the work socials she had to attend were mainly men. She wanted more females that work in typically male industries to come forward. There is not set criteria for what makes a girl a geek but I was reassured by Chyrelle that the meetings are for everyone.
Sarah Blower was the founder of Geek Girl Dinners and held the very first one in London. She said, "Back in 2005 I had been working in tech for about a year. I was finding isolating on my own as the rest were all guys on my team. And they were all really nice guys but I wanted to meet girls and I knew they had to be out there."

And they are. You can find geek girls on Twitter, Facebook, and 21 countries all over the world. Women take the initiative to set up their own dinner and bring together geeky girls in their communities. So if you’re a geeky girl and you feel you need to find kindred spirits don’t worry you are not alone. I met lots of interesting ladies at the dinner last night and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The Knit Factor!

My mum sent me a couple of new knitting patterns in the post so I'm about to embark on some new knit wear! I was watching Harry Hill's TV burp at the weekend and noticed that they had launched the K factor to find the best knitted characters...brilliant! I've made teddy bears and scarfs and ties but I don't think they are quite good enough to win.

Ramble Ramble

I joined the Tiger Bay Ramblers for walk at the weekend which was nice and gentle.
We started off in a car park in Cowbridge and just did a little walk around the neighbouring fields and woodland. There were so many of us that they had walkie talkies at the front and back to keep us all in check and make sure that no one got lost on the stiles. For me the walk wasn't far enough or strenuous enough so I'll have to do something more challenging next time. Still, it was good to get out and about.

Bum, Belly, Beak, Bang...

It's coming up to the end of shooting season so I thought I would share my thoughts on my day with the Batcombe Shoot in Somerset.
I had never use a shotgun before so it was a big learning curve as I swung and 12 bore gun over my shoulder and got in a trailer. We went to 5 different places to shoot and I got better with each drive. The gun was quite heavy and because of the recoil I managed to get a massive bruise near my shoulder...nice! But it was all excellent fun. It was beaters day so the people that were usually driving the birds were now trying to shoot them. I think we managed to shoot 36 by the end of the day ( I tickled a pheasant but didn't manage to bring it down!). I think I'll need a day on some clays before I try shooting birds again! It was a brilliant day though. I love watching the gun dogs sprint through the undergrowth looking for birds. The amount of discipline and control they have is amazing to watch. I can't wait to get a dog and train him up!
And like all good shoot days a lovely meal followed. Cottage Pie and greens and chocolate cake and crumble to finish. I also took home enough cheese to last me for 3 weeks! All in all a cracking day.