Aled Jones - The role of agricultural societies and shows in promoting, developing and innovating the agricultural industry
Having been born and raised on the family’s 700-acre hill farm at Cwrt-y-Cadno, north Carmarthenshire, I have always been passionate about the agricultural industry and considered it my career of choice.
After completing my secondary education, I attended the University of Reading to study Land Management where I graduated with first class honours in 2007. Shortly afterwards, I joined a rural surveying practice where I undertook my professional examinations. In 2009, I qualified as Chartered Surveyor and was admitted as a Fellow of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.
After spending 6 years as a rural practice surveyor, I was appointed the Assistant Chief Executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society.
Despite my professional commitments, I have remained involved in the family farm where I gained most of my knowledge and practical experience of agriculture. The farm business centers on a flock of 1,100 early lambing ewes and a small herd of beef cattle.
Over the past 15 years, I have also been very active in the Young Farmers movement and I am past Chairman of my local club, Dyffryn Cothi YFC. I have had many highlights during my involvement with the YFC, culminating in being named Senior Member of the Year for the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs of England and Wales in 2012.
Prior to my appointment as Assistant Chief Executive, I was actively involved with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, as a member of the Carmarthenshire Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors and Chairman of the recently launched Young Members' Forum.
Agricultural societies have played a leading role in the development of agriculture and the rural economy for over a century. Originally established to promote best practice amongst farmers in the breeding of livestock and crop production etc., today their work covers a far greater spectrum of farming including providingsupport for business, social welfare and education in rural communities.
It is often misconceived that agricultural societies were formed with the sole function of holding a big annual show. Whilst annual shows provide a fantastic platform to showcase the very best in the industry and serve an important economic and social function, societies can offer far more in the form of industry support and leadership.
With agriculture going through a significant period of change at the moment, not least with the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the need for farming businesses to adapt and evolve has never been greater. The challenge for agricultural societies is to evolve in pace with the industry and ensure that farming businesses become more profitable and competitive in the future.
My study will therefore focus on the future direction of agricultural societies, investigate new technologies and identify ways in which they can champion innovation. Sustaining the relevance and impact of agricultural societies and shows relies upon the constant enthusiasm to develop and innovate in order to keep abreast of changing farming methods and structures.
My proposed travel destinations falls within three main categories. Firstly, I want to establish the position within the UK and visit some of the traditional agricultural societies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Secondly, I want to visit the USA and Canada to visit their state and county fairs. I am interested to learn more about their structure and progression from local to national shows. The origins of state fairs are very similar to our agricultural shows with their primary purpose being to promote farming through competitive exhibitions of livestock etc., but modern state fairs have expanded to include a variety of entertainment and can attract up to a million visitors over a week or two.
Thirdly, I would like to visit some developing countries in Africa and understand the importance of agricultural societies to food production and some of the emerging economies of Asia, such as China, to explore the role of technology within modern agricultural exhibitions.
Finally, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Young Nuffield (Bob Matson) Award for providing me with the tremendous opportunity of participating in this scholarship. I have chosen a topic that I am deeply passionate about and believe there is considerable shared learning to be achieved.