A special edition of S4C’s farming and countryside series Ffermio on Monday, 5 September at 20.25 will profile expert plant breeder Dr Elen Jones-Evans.
Dr Elen is originally from Llandyrnog near Ruthin but now works in the agriculture industry in Italy.
Elen works as a specialist plant breeder for the Monsanto Vegetable Seeds company nurturing and developing melons near the town of Latina, south of Rome in Italy.
Ffermio reporter Terwyn Davies follows Elen at her work from day to day and finds out more about her family and social life at home in the town of Nettuno.
Elen, 34, who is married to Italian Matteo Mazzi and has a two-year-old daughter Alaw, has lived in Italy since 2000. She lived in Parma in the north for ten years before moving to Nettuno last year.
Elen says: “I enjoy the work immensely. Developing suitable produce for different segments of the market – from greenhouses to local crop fields – is a huge challenge which offers great variation. As well as specialised knowledge of plant breeding, it required some knowledge of agronomics, genetics, plant pathology and market data.”
Elen did a joint honours degree in Italian and Environmental Biology at Swansea University and a doctorate at Parma University in Agricultural Genetics.
Dr Elen then went to work for a Tomato processing company in Parma where she tested the products in the laboratory at various stages during production and on the finished product.
Elen was particularly interested in how the seeds were grown and nurtured and had the opportunity to put the research into practice in the field of melon breeding with a local Italian company. She eventually joined Monsanto Vegetable Seeds as a melon plant breeder.
“The lifestyle and agriculture practices are totally different to Wales’ rural life and farming industry,” says Elen. “But just like back in Wales, the present state of the economy is having a great effect on the price farmers get for their produce and livestock. Farmers are finding it difficult to predict market prices as they fluctuate greatly. Other factors, as well as the state of the economy, can affect the market price, including adverse press converse for produce, such as what happened in the cucumbers crisis in Germany, bad weather and so on.”
Ffermio is a Telesgop production for S4C. For further details visit s4c.co.uk/ffermio
4th July 2011
Wellman’s Club, Industrial Estate Road,Llangefni, LL77 7JA
5th July 2011
Canolfan Cae Cymro, Clawddnewydd, Ruthin, LL15 2ND
19.00 – 20.00
6th July 2011
Glantwymyn Hall, Glantwymyn, Machynlleth, SY20 8LX
19.00 – 20.00
7th July 2011
The Whitehouse Country Inn, Sennybridge, Brecon, LD3 8RP
19.00 – 20.00
11th July 2011
Llandeilo Civic Hall, Crescent Road, Llandeilo, SA19 6HW
19.00 – 20.00
12th July 2011
Ysgol Griffith Jones, St Clears, Carmarthen, SA33 4BT
The destruction of some of the nuclear power stations in Japan following the earthquake and the tsunami has raised the question once again in regard to the dangers of nuclear energy. Only weeks after the disaster we are marking 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster. A special edition of Ffermio therefore this week is very timely, as Richard Rees, Executive Producer, explains.
The reaction from everybody that we interviewed was the same. Farmers, scientists, politicians – everybody was shocked to hear that 25 years had gone by since the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine.
Reactor Number 4 at Chernobyl Power Station near Pripiat city exploded on 26 April 1986. The after effects of that day are still evident today – both in the Ukraine and here in Wales.
Meinir Jones, one of Ffermio’s presenters, will be looking back at the history and measuring the scale that the accident has had on farmers here in Wales.
For days following the accident, the authorities in Russia were very reluctant to admit that anything was amiss. The Soviet Government there was on its knees and was afraid of the embarrassment and the shame of admitting that the accident had happened.
It took the authorities 36 hours to move the local residents from their homes. They were also told not to take any of their personal possessions with them since they’d be back within days. Their clothes and belongings however are still to be seen today in the empty houses behind the fence that was raised to create an out of bounds are of 20 miles around the reactor.
By the time the authorities there had admitted that the accident had happened, the explosion and the fire that followed because of it had thrown up a radioactive cloud into the sky, and this cloud was carried by the wind across northern Europe. Unfortunately, the rain and the radiation from the cloud fell on Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cumbria in the north of England and north Wales. The results of that shower of rain were disastrous for over 5000 farmers in north Wales and led to the ban of the movement and selling of over two million sheep.
Each of the farmers that we spoke to have a clear memory of where they were and how they heard about the ban. Cyril Lewis, Penmachno was at Llanrwst Mart; Emlyn Roberts Esgairgawr, Rhydymain had just finished studying at the Agriculture College in Aberystwyth whilst Glyn Roberts Betws y Coed had only taken the farm over from his father three years previously.
The accident made farmers very aware of the nuclear industry. Glyn Roberts noted – “To think that the radiation came all the way from Chernobyl to north Wales scares you, because what would the effect be if that disaster had happened in a nuclear station in north Wales?”
Following the latest crisis with the nuclear reactors in Japan, the farmers that we spoke to are worried that we could face another Chernobyl here in Europe. These farmers don’t want for the next generation to have to face the same problems and crisis’ that they have.
Sir Wyn Roberts, a minister in the Welsh Office at the time, remembers being called to an emergency meeting in London with the Agriculture Minister Michael Joplin to discuss how to deal with the situation.
The conclusion of the meeting was that areas of the north were designated as areas where no sheep could be moved and it was decided to scan the sheep before they were sold in order to assure the safety of the public whilst eating lamb. Many can remember the painful process of seeing sheep being killed so that their meat could then be sent to the laboratories to be tested for radiation. The compensation for moving any sheep from the holding is still only £1.35 a head today.
The journalist Eifion Glyn and the member of parliament Elfyn Llwyd have very different memories. They went to Chernobyl in 1995 to see the damage, and both were taken aback by the lack of upkeep and maintenance to the nuclear reactors there and the lack of care in regard to the inhabitants. Elfyn Llwyd says “When I walked through Pripyat Square, there was never a bird in the sky nor any leaves on the trees. There were small dolls on the floor and broken records, and that is what they did – they said nothing, and at the last minute sent people from their homes without giving them the chance to take anything with them”.
We also spoke to the scientist Professor Deri Thomas who meets frequently with people that work at Chernobyl. There is a theory amongst the scientists that there is a tendency now in the Ukraine to attribute everything that is bad about the country on Chernobyl and therefore ignoring the awful poverty that is there.
The Chernobyl power station still works and experts from the nuclear industry from across the world are keeping a close eye on what happens there. The authorities are preparing to place a steel cover over the top of reactor number four at a cost of £600m.
And then, as we were preparing for the programme, the disaster happened in Japan. An earthquake and a tsunami kills hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactor.
Elfyn Llwyd makes the point that the authorities in Japan use the same raw techniques to deal with the situation in Fukushima as were used in Chernobyl in 1986, which is to pour water and sand over the reactor from the air.
Twenty five years after the Chernobyl accident, the radiation is still exists on the hills in north Wales, the sheep are still being scanned and nuclear accidents are still happening. Many are asking whether any lessons have been learnt over the past quarter of a century?
A new presenter will join the flagship S4C farming and countryside series Ffermio from Monday, 24 January (8.25pm).
Meinir Jones of Capel Isaac near Llandeilo steps in front of the camera lenses after four years working as director and researcher on the popular S4C series.
She follows in the footsteps of Iola Wyn who said her farewell to Ffermio viewers last Monday after six years as part of the presentation team.
Meinir, 25, is a farmer’s daughter from Maesteilo farm, Capel Isaac. As well as working for the Swansea-based TV company Telesgôp which produce Ffermio, she works on the family’s sheep and beef farm at every opportunity she gets with her parents Eifion and Doris Jones and 21-year-old brother, Eirian.
Meinir is looking forward immensely to the challenge of presenting Ffermio – despite admitting that she is somewhat a little nervous.
“Farming is very close to my heart so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to report and present on the Ffermio series. I’m looking forward to meeting people who are passionate about farming and discussing the issues that are of great importance to the people who love the countryside,” says Meinir.
Meinir is a keen member of Llanfynydd Young Farmers’ Club and is highly indebted to the Young Farmers for giving her the experiences and confidence in many aspects of her life.
“I have been a member of the Young Farmers since I was 10 years old and have had many memorable opportunities as well as making lifelong friends. It’s an organisation that nurtures the most precious skills to everyone who is involved in it,” explains Meinir.
“Through the movement, I’ve had the chance to judge stock, sing and act and try my hand at public speaking, cookery and even sheep shearing! I’ve gained the confidence to perform and present on stage and take part in competitions that I would never have dreamt of entering if it weren’t for the club,”
Meinir has a flock of Balwen sheep that she exhibits in shows.
Viewers who saw the Seren Bethlehem series on S4C will recognise her as the actress who played Mary in the nativity production at Bethlehem, Carmarthenshire. She also performs as one half of a singing duo in venues throughout Wales.
She’ s excited for the big moment when she presents her first television piece – a fascinating story about sheep scanning in Llansannan, near Denbigh, North Wales.
“I’m quite nervous, I must admit – but I’ve had a great deal of help from the crew at Telesgôp and there’s no better way to live than to live out in the country and produce high-quality produce that farmers should be proud of!” she adds.
The month of May means that the Young Farmer Rally’s are soon to be in full swing. It’s Carmarthenshire’s turn tomorrow (May 4th) with the
Ffermio is taking a break for a few weeks, but will be back on S4C on Monday June 3rd.