Anna is a freelance writer and agricultural consultant living in Drefach Felindre.
Tell me, you live in...what do you like about it there?
I live in Drefach Felindre, but grew up on a dairy farm near Carmarthen and spent four years at university in Cirencester. I moved back here in 2016 after a year working in Warwickshire. I love the outdoors in West Wales- we have some of the best beaches and most stunning coastlines in the world, and easy access to beautiful hills!
Can you comment on the creative community where you live?
I work long hours in my day jobs so I don’t spend as long in the local community as I would like. However I have recently signed up for a space at Cowshed Cymru’s creative community and I am really excited to meet likeminded people and collaborate in sharing ideas and skills.
How it is now, has it always been like this?
Definitely not! Growing up in West Wales I never truly appreciated how beautiful the area is and what a privilege it is to live here. My job allows me to connect with people and the land and to frequently take lunch breaks in amazing locations. Moving back to a rural location means that I’ve left my university friends behind, and my school friends have largely left the area too. It’s only because I work in the rural sector that I have been able to find a professsional role in the area and not be another “brain drain” to the city. I bought a house last year and live on my own- when my friends visit or come home I have a list of places to visit and re-visit.
Where did your love of agriculture and the land develop?
I grew up on a dairy farm but was steered away from practical farming and towards academic pursuits. At school I loved art and English but decided to apply to vet school to combine my academic successes with interest in horses and farm animals and a desire to live in the countryside. Only after being offered a place did I decide that it wasn’t the path for me, and opted for a degree in agriculture and equine studies at the royal agricultural college. That degree changed everything- I studied in a beautiful location, took my horse to university, developed a love of travel through international study tours, had lots of opportunities to write, and decided that I should pursue a career in sustainable agriculture, while keeping horses as a hobby!
How do you see the future of the land you are working with?
Agriculture is a really exciting industry to work in, especially at the time of writing! Without subsidies I think a lot of hill sheep and beef farms will really suffer, and that could dramatically change the upland landscape. That land is only really suitable for growing grass, and has been shaped by centuries of traditional farming. I hope that commercial pressures are creating opportunities for more grass- based, extensive farming systems to flourish. I do see farms becoming bigger- not necessarily more intensive- and run more efficiently. I can see people trying to grow more novel crops too- there have been quinoa trials in Shropshire!
What excites you about this?
The opportunities for people working in the sector, both to set up businesses and to be forces for positive change. Agriculture has a long way to go in terms of gender equality, but there are more and more women entering the industry, and more entrants from non- traditional backgrounds. That diversity brings creativity and new thinking and will shape the industry and the land that supports it as we all negotiate Brexit and climate change.
Can you tell us about something particularly exciting you're working on?
There is a FaceTime A Farmer initiative running across the UK that links farmers with schoolchildren and teaches them about food and farming. I’m currently writing a feature! My boyfriend is one of the farmers involved. I think giving children this knowledge helps them make informed choices about the food they choose to eat or not eat. It’s also good to link primary producers with their end consumers, as it takes them out of the rural bubble!
I also work with lots of individual dairy farmers producing milk from extensive grass-based systems. These are brilliant sustainable businesses. The Free Range Dairy movement is gaining momentum and I think it’s only a matter of time before consumer choice puts a premium on free range milk and dairy products as it has on eggs.
Can you sum-up your last year of work/play in Wales?
It’s been wild! My day job, freelance writing for some really exciting start up and established publications, tutoring GCSE and A level students, buying a house and moving in, drag hunting on my horse, three weeks in Australia taking in the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Ocean Road while learning about post-subsidy, harsh-climate dairy farming, learning to surf in Pembrokeshire, discovering lots of beautiful new beaches, a week in Kenya on safari, making new friends and re-connecting with old ones, running fell races and a half marathon, modelling wedding dresses... I’ve had my eyes opened every day to new experiences and perspectives and I keep having to pinch myself that this is the life I’ve made for myself!
Thank you Anna!