Nathan Richards speaking at the Tyfu Cymru event at the 100th Royal Welsh Show

Expert growers share their secrets at the Royal Welsh Show 2019

Last week saw the 100th Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd where the sun was shining, and everyone was ready for another year. The scorching temperatures didn’t deter the crowds, although it may have caused an extra long queue at the ice cream stands!

What did we get up to?

As well as hosting a schedule of guest speakers and activities over on the Potting Bench at the Horticulture tent, we were delighted to be able to host our horticulture event on Wednesday morning, with two guest speakers, both experts on all things horticulture. With an enthusiastic audience and refreshments to hand, we discussed the opportunities and challenges within the horticulture industry.

25 years of knowledge…

Our first guest speaker was Gary Swaine, owner of Four Crosses nursery, located in Welshpool. With over 25 years’ experience in plant production and sales, Gary’s nursery is now home to 2 million plants.

From drivers to sprayers, Gary employs 12 full time and four part time staff at his establishment. He expressed how difficult it can be to find the ideal candidate with all the necessary skills here in the UK, therefore ensuring he is constantly training his staff is vital for the success of the nursery. Whether it be training staff about plant health or instructing them on how to drive a tractor, it is important to ensure that everyone has the correct skills.

Brexit was also a topic of conversation, and how it may affect the horticulture industry in the near future. Gary predicts that there may be a shortage of plants here in the UK once Brexit is complete. Although this could be seen as a hurdle, it can also be seen as an opportunity for new and emerging growers to fill the gap.

Gary Swaine Four Crosses Talking at 100th Royal Welsh Show

You don’t need to be born a farmer to be successful in horticulture…

On to our second speaker of the morning, Nathan Richards and his wife own Troed Y Rhiw farm in Ceredigion, where they grow organic vegetables on their 23 acres of land. Nathan opted for a career change in his early 40s from working in the film industry to pursue his dream. He didn’t come from a farming background so had a lot to learn about horticulture! Nathan has always had an interest in ecology and the environment, so thought he should get off the fence and do something about it. Mr Richard’s aim is to put farming back into the centre of the community and get everyone talking about food!

Not only does Nathan grow and sell vegetables from his farm, but he is also very concerned with soil health and what he can give back to the land:

“It’s important to us that we’re always looking to improve the soil rather than just taking from it.” Nathan Richards, Troed Y Rhiw farm

Proud to call themselves ‘hyper local’, Richard and his team sell their produce at a local farmer’s market in Newport, Pembrokeshire, with all their vegetables being consumed within an 18 miles radius of his farm. Not only does Richard trade to the public, but also to local cafes and pubs in the area:

“Rather than be a big fish, what I’d like to see is a pool of lots of smaller fish.”

Nathan is also a firm believer in education. He prides himself on having trainees and apprentices to encourage people to reconnect with horticulture. Nathan explains that if he were to have a motto to his farm, it would be 'Get ON my farm' based on an open gate policy, where everyone is welcome to come and learn.

Nathan Richards talking at 100th Royal Welsh Show

A reoccurring theme during the Q&A session for both speakers seemed to be on the topic of encouraging the next generation to be passionate and want to pursue a career in horticulture. Education seems to be the advice of our experts, informing the younger generation on the different roles within the horticulture sector and how exciting and innovative a career in horticulture can be.

This event is an example of whether you’re just starting your career or thinking of a career change later in life, the horticulture industry is thriving and thirsty for new talent right now!

You can catch up on the event in our video below.