I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a presentation in Swansea by Will Prichard, a dairy farmer from Letterston in Pembrokeshire.
Will is a third generation farmer on ‘Escalwen’ farm outside Letterston and he began by explaining how his grandfather had farmed there with only 20 milking cows back in 1943. The history of the family and how the farm had changed over the years was very interesting, and by the time Will had left school at 16 years of age in 1990 the farm had expanded its dairy herd to 230 milking cows. Will didn’t go on to sixth form – he saw instead the opportunities the Young Farmers Federation could offer him as a way of furthering his education and he soon embarked on a trip to Canada to visit many different dairy farms.
When Will returned, he went to study at the Welsh Agricultural College in Aberystwyth and then became a partner in the family business. After returning from a trip to New Zealand, Will came back full of ideas including the sort of parlour that they should be building – and from the photographs he showed us during his presentation, Escalwen’s new parlour was no different to those in New Zealand. Investing in the business was something Will and his family felt important to do if they wanted to succeed, and although at that time the local farmers may have shook their heads at them in dismay, Escalwen understood that they needed to expand if they wanted to succeed.
The next venture was diversification and this time he pulled in his friend Jamie to help him and they launched the brand ‘Will and Jamie’s Yoghurt Drink’. I can remember seeing the bottles on a club night at Tiers Cross YFC some years back where everybody was eager to taste this new drink which was the ‘crazy’ new project by the farmers up the road! The purpose of the idea was to give farmers more money for their milk, but after a while Will and his mate got fed up and so Will decided to try something new – and so instead decided to expand on the dairy farm!
Will now supplies milk locally through a local fruit and vegetable market. Over half of the milk produced at Escalwen is marketed in this way, and this pleases Will at the moment. Today, in 2011, Will and his team milk over a 1000 cows a day and he hopes to be able to expand this to 2300 in the future.
Will feels that nurturing new talent into the industry is extremely important, especially to persuade them to stay in the sector. He believes that all farmers should be encouraging talent at a young age– including giving responsibility to sons and daughters while they are home on the farm; instead of pushing them away.
Will then went on to address milk prices and in particular how farmers need 35.2 pence a litre to be able to produce milk effectively and have some money left over towards a wage for the family. However, the farmer at present only receives on average 28 pence at the moment – and so this is quite a gap. However, even if milk was 35.2 pence per litre as Will explained, it would still be cheaper to buy than the bottled water on the shelf of the supermarket! Is this fair? You decide. Although most farmers put the blame on the government and anyone else they can for the low prices and lack of care, Will stresses that the blame is really on the farmers who don’t strive for better prices, and don’t join together as one voice for the sector to get better things.
Although there are challenges facing the sector at the moment, Will is sure that there are better times to come. He reckons that “Farming is about to get trendy”. With the world in need of food and population likely to increase dramatically over the next few years no-one can afford to turn their backs on farmers anymore. Will sees a promising future for Wales, but he says that it’s extremely important that everyone pulls together and talks to each other – and that they share problems, hopes and dreams. This is the only way that we are going to survive as a nation in the competitive world of food producing as it is now.
Although I already knew Will to be a good, keen farmer his presentation really did inspire me. He’s a man with big hopes for the sector, and he’s someone that is keen to succeed whatever happens. Still young, Will has a great future ahead of him, and nurturing talent like his is extremely important to determine that the dairy sector succeeds. Although I’m sure that many farmers who know Will or have listened to one of his presentations have since changed their perspective in regard to farming and they way that they farm, the problem is that not enough farmers of Will’s age get recognised within the industry, and not enough are willing to change and evolve like he has. The next step therefore is making that dream a reality – and this, I believe, is what is lost in the rural countryside of Wales today.
One other thing… Will at the moment is single and looking for love. I’m sure that after reading the above many of you would be more than happy to have him as a partner! So, if you’re interested – get in touch!
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