As the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society’s flagship accolade, the Sir Bryner Jones Memorial Award is hotly contested year after year.
With exceptional entries from ten counties across Wales, the judges have had a challenging task whittling it down to three very worthy candidates. Once again, the overall winner of this year’s coveted award will be kept under wraps until the Royal Welsh Show, where the shortlisted contenders and their families will attend the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society award presentations on the first day of the show to hear the winner announced for the first time.
Sir Bryner Jones helped shape the direction of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society for 50 years, was Agricultural Commissioner for Wales and subsequently became Welsh Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture. He was President of the Royal Welsh in 1954, the society’s golden jubilee year.
Since 1957 the award has been made annually to someone from a different area of the farming industry who has reached the highest level of achievement in the chosen sector. This year the judges were looking for an individual or business that is actively involved in food and/or drink production which demonstrates sustainable innovation and enhances the environment in Wales.
“We had the privilege of visiting ten businesses throughout Wales over the course of five days throughout May and June.” remarked the judges Mr Brian Jones MBE FRAgS and Mr Richard Vaughan.
“All the candidates were a credit for the food and drink sector in Wales showing excellent product knowledge with efficient marketing regimes, which bodes well for growing the industry here in Wales.”
The three shortlisted candidates are:
Rhug Estate, Corwen, Denbighshire
The Rhug Estate in Denbighshire covers 12,500 acres with approximately 6,700 of those farmed in hand. Lord Newborough took over the Estate from his father in 1998 and because sustainability is at the heart of the business mission, it was converted to an organic farm with full organic status from 2000. This sustainable farming model is producing as much now as when farmed conventionally.
Carbon Footprint and Environmental Impact is always in all plans across the business and has been from the offset and since the carbon footprint has been measured, they are in a carbon negative position due to the system and the way they’ve farmed and managed the land.
The farm shop at Rhug opened in 2002 selling its high-quality award-winning meat of beef, lamb, chicken, venison, geese and turkey, in a wide range of products choices and cuts. There is also a restaurant, cafe and takeaway and a recent addition is the new drive thru which is very popular due to its location right on the side of the A5.
Packaging in the Farm Shop, Drivethru and Takeaway are fully compostable or recyclable as well as the cardboard trays for their meat products and they are constantly reviewing the latest sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. The waste that is generated by the visitors is sorted and everything that can be recycled is recycled.
The Rhug Estate supplies meat across the UK to top restaurants as well as exporting to such places as Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai.
Four years ago, Lord Newborough and Rhug Organic Farm, farm shop and the butcher’s counter were awarded the Royal Warrant of Appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales. This in itself is a remarkable achievement which shows the recognition and value of sustainability.
Producing Green Energy at Rhug is an integral part of the sustainability model and over the years they have built several hydro schemes, wind turbines, solar panels systems and battery storage and there are several current projects under way including eight rapid electric charging points for visitors and customers calling at Rhug.
Lord Newborough’s innovative approach helped them to launch a new branded skin care range in 2020 using ingredients foraged and grown on the Estate. There are now well over 100 staff employed across the diverse enterprises on the Estate and that in a rural area is of huge significance and importance to the local economy and infrastructure.
This is a true “field to plate” operation instilled with passion and enthusiasm well led by Lord Newborough and his team based on an extremely strong business model. It has a clear vision and mission to take the business forward for years to come to expand the name and brand of Rhug.
Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd, Bryn Bach, Dryslwyn, Carmarthen
Gwenyn Gruffydd was founded in 2010 after Gruffydd decided to follow his dream of keeping bees. His passion for beekeeping has continued growing and the successful hobby resulted in Gwenyn Gruffydd Ltd being established in September 2019. The business now in its third year of trading as a Ltd business proudly supplies farm shops, delis and wholesalers who distribute the honey across the country.
Owners Angharad and Gruffydd, are a motivated and committed young couple who are so essential to the production of food whereby without such people and their dedication to the bee industry then cropping would be reduced by over 60%. Every question asked of them was so professionally answered and in such an understandable way.
Gwenyn Gruffydd have a range of pure natural honey products including Welsh wildflower honey, Welsh heather honey, Wildflower and Heather Cut Comb, along with limited editions of Autumn Ivy honey. Each product is unique – from the colour right down to the aroma notes and flavour. The business has developed where other farmers are contracted to position hives on spare land which gave them some extra and valuable income and is now one of the bigger beekeepers in Wales with over 200 hives in his care. Beeswax is now being manufactured for the candle market and there are huge advantages for the company to buy in other producers’ honey for mixing with their own for different flavours.
Their knowledge and experience of bee keeping is shared with the community. They run beekeeping courses, share videos via Beekeeping YouTube Channel to help new beekeepers starting out and have given talks to local groups including schools on bees, beekeeping and their importance for pollination and to the whole food security chain. The business also offers a wide range of beekeeping supplies to get you started in beekeeping from the amateur beekeeper to the professional including beekeeping equipment, tools, bee feed and bees.
The company continues to grow and invest in the business with a modest expansion of their existing facilities and allowing renovation of an existing farm outbuilding will enable the business to increase production volume per day, increasing efficiency and product range.
Radnor Hills Water Co Ltd, Heartease Farm, Knighton, Powys
Radnor Hills Water Co Ltd is a very sophisticated business with major investment in automation that required a substantial skill set in engineers. Radnor Hills have adapted hugely for the demands of no waste and using renewable packaging in all its containers. A very impressive recycling of all waste with no landfill being used. Any unused water and water from the plant that’s been used for cleaning and washing etc is filtered back into the nearby river as perfectly clean water fit enough to be drank after going through a multi filtration system.
Mr William Watkins diversified the business in 1988 when he started to pack cuplets of mineral water for the Airline Industry. From there the company grew and Radnor Hills was set up in 1990. Over thirty years ago, after their first bottles were sold, they now supply over 250 UK wholesalers and retailers including some of Britain’s largest supermarkets. The emphasis of their product is on flavour and quality and now they have diversified with many different product ranges. The wellbeing of staff is a top priority as well as their business being as environmentally friendly as possible. Staff recruitment with specialist skill sets is an ongoing challenge and they do train some in-house. It is a very large-scale employer in a very rural area, therefore the benefit they bring to the local economy and area is huge. Many of the key workers for the business live on the farm.
Environmental sustainability is at the forefront for Radnor Hills and the+y are committed to minimising their impact which is how they have achieved in sending no waste to landfill since 2018. To identify the outcome of their footprint a PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal) exercise was undertaken and this model is attributed to the outcomes of their Environmental Management System and this has been operational since 2018.
The Heartsease farm on which the water company is located extends to approximately 1400 acres of which 800 acres are arable. The remainder is grass which carries approximately 140 Welsh Black Cows and well over 1000 mules.
Although the farm is not fully organic it is a very low input system that makes very efficient use of manure. On the land near the factory there are approximately 14 boreholes which supply the water to the factory from natural springs.
This business has a sound business plan with a clear strategic direction, one that will keep the Radnor Hills brand on the shelves for years to come.
The judges would like to thank each and every one of the ten candidates for their time and hospitality during the judging, and wish all the candidates well for the future and look forward to hearing of their continued success.
The winner will be announced at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society award presentations in the Council Enclosure on the first day of the show, Monday 18 July, at 2.30pm and will be presented with the Sir Bryner Jones Memorial Trophy, Medal and Certificate. The RWAS acknowledges with thanks the sponsorship of the medal by Mr Gareth Roberts, a member of the Society’s Board of Directors