Jo and I have been in observation mode, really, since our launch party at Penllyn Court in August 2019, when Anwen memorably came careering into the tent on a lawnmower that was up for auction, singing Cymru Fach!
Since then we have built a new eco home on the farm, moved in, and retired from farming. We have found ourselves instead doing non-stop menial tasks at Forage, our farm shop and restaurant.
We have learned so much from our venerable local Chairs, John Thomas (South), Andrew Edwards (North), Jonathan Lloyd Davies (West) and Teleri Glyn Jones (Cardiff), as well as, of course, the Capo dei Capi Kathy Bowdler, our Feature County Chair.
We attended the Pembrokeshire AGM at Drysgolgoch, where not only did Seimon Thomas give us a rousing pep talk, but memorably David Lewis auctioned off the leftover sandwiches! We had a few minor events before lockdown and then came alive again in May last year.
We had a visit to the Clwyd Grassland Event, Spring Festival, Main Show and the Winter Fair, rather like spies, and have become more and more attuned to what goes on. Despite having attended the summer show ever since we returned to Wales from Manchester in 1980 to bring up our three children Matt, Tom and Ginny here, it is becoming clearer that the Society is a mighty complex organism. It represents everything that is fabulous about Wales, welcoming, collaborative, stylish and just a little formal.
I cannot pretend to have the RWAS pedigree of my predecessor, Harry, whom I have known and observed for years as he glided unflappably round the site, in his spectacular attire. However, I feel I represent the dramatic history of Glamorgan quite accurately.
My father’s family set up an iron foundry in the early days of Merthyr Tydfil’s industrial boom (1783) and my mother was born in Penarth to a Cardiff shipowner. The shipping line was founded by my ancestor, who went to sea at 12 as a cabin boy, started as a clerk at Annings in Cardiff and went on to found his own shipping line with 26 ships. That was Cardiff!!
Of course the family bought land to give itself an upgrade (1840) and we have been at Penllyn ever since. My sons, Matt and Tom, are now in the hot seat, the sixth generation of Homfrays to occupy it.
These are dramatic times for farming and many of the trends are, to us at least, wholly welcome. While the lack of figures attached to Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme is frustrating, the direction of travel is becoming clearer.
To this end, we are not holding a Grassland Event in 2023, but a Regenerative Farming demonstration day on June 8th at David Anthony’s farm, Sealands, Wick. We are so grateful to him and to his parents, Richard and Lynwen.
Otherwise, we are and have been holding numerous entertaining events round the county and the funds are dribbling in towards our projects, the Royal Welsh Leadership Academy and the refurbishment of the Glamorgan (ex South Glamorgan) Hall.
We are particularly proud of our 14 Leadership Academy participants chosen from an amazing list of applicants. We will no doubt hear plenty from them in the future. This scheme has been enabled by a wonderful legacy from the Trustees of the late Mr Norman Griffiths and funding from the George Gibson Charitable Trust. I must thank Sara Llewellyn Jones and Martin Gibson for their great support of this enterprise.
I thank all those in Glamorgan for the fun and friendship we have shared during this process and, of course, those in Llanelwedd who have continuously smoothed our path. Chief Executive, Aled Rhys Jones, Chairs of Board Professor Wynne Jones and of Council Nicola Davies and all of the staff have been non-stop help to us too, along with that sparkling character, Jacob Anthony, our Royal Welsh Gentleman Ambassador. I have known most of them for years. That’s the way it is in Wales, mercifully!
The Feature County Model is so ingenious that I hope it endures for many more cycles round the 12 Counties and that our amazing Showground continues to outshine every other one I’ve seen.
Jo and I look forward to seeing you all at the 2023 events and I again thank my Glamorgan friends for doing me the great honour of choosing me as their President. I promise to tidy up generally and try to say the right thing – yn Cymraeg eto!!
John Homfray FRAgS
In my wildest dreams, I never envisaged that I would one day be Miss Royal Welsh….or should I say, RWAS Ambassador, as the role is known today!
The Royal Welsh holds decades of tradition close to its heart, but it is also a forward-thinking society that embraces change and encourages evolvement. With this in mind, it is a huge privilege to be the first ever male to take up the role of the Feature County Ambassador.
Our committee comprises an incredible team and we have some special people here. Being a Glamorgan boy, born and bred, I feel very proud that I am able to represent our unique county.
Ever since I was a young child, I have always enjoyed the annual family pilgrimage to the Royal Welsh, the crown jewel in the agricultural show world. The early days involved toddling around after my father in the machinery section.
Later, there came dressing up on stage for various YFC competitions, lacing up the boots for the Rugby 7s, judging the Shepherds Competition in the sheep section and, of course, sampling the beer in the famous members bar! These are all special and happy lifelong memories, thanks to this wonderful Society.
I attended Archbishop McGrath Roman Catholic School in Bridgend and then went on to study agriculture at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire. After completing my studies I returned home to farm full time alongside my father, Peter, mother Emma and my late grandfather, David, at the family farm, Cwm Risca, in the Llynfi Valley.
Cwm Risca has a special relationship with the Royal Welsh. My late great uncle, Tom Richards, who also called the farm his home, was President in 1982.
Since returning home full time, I have been fortunate to continue my personal development. I have been part of knowledge transfer programmes such as Farming Connect’s Agri Academy and the National Sheep Association’s Next Generation initiative.
In 2018, I was honoured to be both the Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year and The Food and Farming Industry Awards Young Farmer of the Year. They are the personal highlights in my career so far and led to me writing a monthly opinion column for the Farmers Weekly.
Our Glamorgan RWAS Feature County fundraising campaign officially kicked off all the way back in 2019, with a launch luncheon at the home of our unique and charismatic President, Johnny Homfray, Penllyn Estate. At the time who could have possibly thought that a global pandemic would have put the world on stop for nearly two years?
Since the country has gone back to some form of normality, the Glamorgan team have hit the ground running with a variety of fundraisers. These events range from Murder Mystery nights to bingo, auctions and even sheep racing!
Around half the population of Wales live in Glamorgan, with the vast majority of people in the cities, towns and valley communities scattered along the M4 corridor. I feel we as a committee, have a huge role to play in selling the farming story whilst raising money for charities via the umbrella of the RWAS.
The Garth Country Fair and the Cwm Risca Stubble to Seed are two examples of Glamorgan events that attracted several hundred members of the public to working farms, many for the very first time.
I am excited for the next year of promoting the Society with Johnny and also alongside two incredible ladies, Chair Kathy Atkin-Bowdler and secretary Charlotte Thomas, as well as the rest of the hardworking Glamorgan fundraising team!
I’d also like to congratulate my predecessor, Lowri Lloyd Williams. She has been a brilliant ambassador for Clwyd and I am grateful for her advice over the last couple of years.
If you’d like to keep an eye on what’s going on here in Glamorgan, please follow our various social media pages.
Diolch yn fawr!