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FARM LIFE: Llŷr ‘Derwydd’ Jones

Farm Life: Llŷr ‘Derwydd’ Jones
"These days, I’m less of a farmer, more of a manager. By now we produce lamb and beef, free-range eggs for Tesco, along with rapeseed oil for our own joint-venture (with other farming friends), Blodyn Aur."

Yr ail yn ein cyfres broffil newydd, Farm Life, yw Llŷr Jones.  Mae Llŷr yn byw yn fferm Derwydd, Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr yn Sir Ddinbych gyda’i wraig, Emma, sy’n rhedeg busnes milfeddygaeth ceffylau yng ngogledd Cymru a Swydd Gaer. Mae ganddyn nhw dri o blant, Dwynwen, sy’n 6 oed, William Emyr sy’n 4, a Gruffydd sy’n 2 oed. 

Llŷr lives at Derwydd farm in Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Denbighshire, with his wife, Emma, who runs her own equine veterinary surgery in north Wales and Cheshire.  They have three children, 6 year-old daughter, Dwynwen , 4 year old William Emyr and 2 year old Gruffydd.

They keep 1000 ewes and 200 store cattle plus a 32,000 free range egg unit supplying eggs to Tesco. 

Llŷr has won many varied awards over the years, most recently in 2022 he won both the NFU National Meurig Raymond Award and the Dafydd Jones Award.

 

Describe your average day on the farm.

Rwy’n hynod falch i ddweud bod ‘na ddim diwrnod arferol ar y fferm, mae pob un dydd yn wahanol.

I’m proud to say that there is no average day on the farm, every day is different. I usually get up around 5.30am, around an hour or so before the children get up.  I enjoy this hour – nobody pressing me for anything, so I make myself a milky coffee and give myself the time to get organised for the day ahead, do some paperwork and so on.   After this, the house wakes and it’s the morning routine with the children and as Emma my wife heads out early, it usually involves me doing the school run.  

I have three working here full-time.  Vicky helps with the cattle and sheep on the farm and Sian and Lliwen with the egg unit.  I’m also lucky as I can ask for help from our neighbours and friends as needed – in the last week or so there were 7 of us all power-washing the poultry shed (a surprisingly satisfying job!).  

These days, I’m less of a farmer, more of a manager.  By now we produce lamb and beef, free-range eggs for Tesco, along with rapeseed oil for our own joint-venture (with other farming friends), Blodyn Aur. In addition, we have a wild campsite here called Mynydd Derwydd, one of our newest enterprises. Emma also has a veterinary practice here, specialising in horse reproduction. Also at the source of it all is a hydro-electric system which runs all of the businesses.  We also have a ground source heat pump and two air source heat pumps.  

With all of this I seem to be more involved with crisis management rather than hands-on farming!  I do everything from the paperwork, sorting planning applications or discussing with the bank manager, to sorting the staff toilets or the guttering at the veterinary practice.  But I’m proud of the fact that my hands still have callouses on them – a sign I’m still doing some of the physical work!

I aim to be in the house by 6pm so that we can all eat supper together as a family but will go out again to do a few more hours especially in the summer.  I try to do a minimum of a 12 hour day – anything less and I feel guilty. 

 

What’s the thing you enjoy most about this time of year and what’s the worst?  

Seeing the day lengthen.  I was out cleaning the shed on the weekend and suddenly realised it was 5.30pm.  It was lovely knowing spring is only around the corner.  

How has the farm evolved over the years/generations?  What have been the significant changes you’ve made and why?  

Dim ond 19 oeddwn I pan wnes i gymryd dros y fferm.  Ugain mlynedd yn hwyrach ac mae wedi newid cymaint, dwi ddim yn siwr fyddai nhad yn nabod y lle mwyach…mae rhaid i bob busnes newid ac addasu dros amser er mwyn bod yn llewyrchus – mi fydd e’n wahanol iawn eto mewn ugain mlynedd arall.  

I took over the farm when I was just 19, over 20 years ago now.  My father, who passed away just a few years later, probably wouldn’t recognise Derwydd anymore.  He farmed 700 sheep here – we now have 1000, along with all the other businesses.  In 2013 I attended the Agri Academy and I set a goal that I wanted to farm without relying on the Single Farm Payment – I could see warning lights with the payments and I just thought that we had to change.  The fact that I was so young taking over the farm meant I was quite fearless I think and ready to try new things.  And because of my situation I haven’t had to compromise or negotiate with any other family members involved with the farm so I’ve had that freedom that many don’t.  The only person I’ve had to keep happy is the Bank Manager – and my wife!

Each element at the farm is inter-linked and one helps the other.  But I think it’s so important to not have all our eggs in one basket – literally in fact.  Every business has to adapt as times change in order to prosper, including farms – and things will be different again in 20 years when perhaps my children will be interested in taking things on.  

Is there an item of machinery you couldn’t be without?  

I’ll be honest and say I’m not really one for new machines!  But I do love my Valtra N174 tractor.

One thing I enjoy is listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I can as I work.  My airpods go in and I find I am a lot more productive – cleaning a shed or spreading muck, I’ll keep going for longer if I want to get to the end of a good story.  

Is there any item of machinery that has changed how you farm / made things easier?  

Yr hydro – mae nawr wrth galon pob dim ry’n ni’n ei wneud yma…

I think it has to be the hydroelectricity plant – it’s now at the heart of everything we do here.  It uses water from our stream and produces enough energy to run 26 homes a year.  Our electricity bill across all elements would probably be around £60,000 if it weren’t for the plant.  

In addition, the ground source heat pump heats the egg unit and keeps the hens warm and air source pumps heat the farmhouse and holiday cottage.  We also have solar panels that produce electricity exported to the grid.  We are 100% renewable now, something about which I’m very proud.  

I also installed inbuilt hen muck dryers, one of the first in the country.  These have reduced the ammonia significantly and means that we are spreading far fewer tractor loads of muck every year as it has less water.  

I’ve also got a full electric Polaris mule.  Gruff, my two year-old son, particularly enjoys this!

What’s the element of your work that you enjoy most?

Yr amrywiaeth a chwrdd â phobol.

The variety and meeting people.  One minute I’m talking to Mrs Thomas from Pontypool about Blodyn Aur, next I’m chatting to the staff, sharing a cup of tea and some cake (some cake helps everyone’s morale), after that I’ll be on the phone to the buyer from Tesco, and then it’s on to talking to some of the campers at 10pm about firewood.  

 

What’s the biggest challenge you see for your farm and/or farming in Wales in general, over the coming decade?  

Y sialens amgylcheddol…ac mae’n bwysig ein bod ni fel ffermwyr yn siarad am y gwaith ry’n ni’n ei wneud, o ran cynhyrchu bwyd da, ôl troed carbon, cadwraeth, lles anifeiliaid a llawer mwy…dylswn ni fod yn falch o’r protîn o safon uchel ry’n ni’n ei gynhyrchu a’r modd ry’n ni’n ei gynhyrchu.  

I think it’s the environmental challenge.  As an industry in the UK we are in a good position and doing a lot of small things will make a big difference in the end, but we have to invest.  We also have to be careful and make sure that the systems and schemes and calculations put in place to measure environmental impact favour the food producer, not the big retailers who sometimes take the glory for the farmer’s hard work!

There are certain voices in the media and on social media who are very vocal against farming, especially meat and dairy production at the moment – and it can be disheartening, especially when you hear things that just aren’t true. Farmers are an easy target at the moment.  Which is strange, because everyone has to eat. So much of the discourse seems to apply to the big, industrial farms of America and elsewhere, not the type of farming businesses we have in the UK.  But that’s why I think it’s so important to speak up about what we do in order to counter the negativity and give the facts of what we as farmers here in this country are really doing – in terms of carbon footprint, conservation, animal welfare and so much more. As well as the renewable energy, we have numerous conservation initiatives in place around the farm, all of which help support the flowers, bees, insects, birds and other wildlife here.   I find that the public really are interested in finding out more about what we do and how good quality food is being produced.  We have schoolchildren here on the farm as well as other visitors and tourists, and I’ll use any platform I can to help spread the message, including social media and broadcast media.  

As farmers we should be proud of the high quality protein we produce and how we produce it. 
I would encourage everyone to be more engaging with the public as on the whole they are always interested in were their food comes from and we are the best advert for our industry.

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