I began my exchange to Wales by travelling on the 13th July 2015 with Rebecca Orr, from Spa Young Farmers, to members of Wales YFC.
After being collected we were taken to Newtown in mid Wales where we met the other international exchangees from America, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Scotland who were over in Wales on a similar exchange programme.
This first night we had a barbecue and all got to know each other by taking part in ice-breaker games which proved a great night’s craic and a lot was learnt about all the different cultures of the other exchangees from around the world.
The following morning we all headed off for a walk in the local area to admire the beautiful scenery. After that we all separated to travel to our host families across Wales, and after a few hours travelling I arrived at the home of Helen Davies, who lives in Penn y banc, Carmarthenshire, which is in a more southern part of Wales.
On arrival with Helen it was late with heavy rain so I spent the evening getting to know Helen and her family.
Helen lives on a 300 cow dairy farm which I was shown round the following morning and the views from the farm house over the surrounding area were beautiful. Following the farm tour Helen and I went to the local mart in Carmarthen where there was a dairy cattle sale on. This was very interesting in comparison to our livestock markets at home. They are very similar, however the Welsh ones have a lot more agricultural whole sellers selling goods and wares.
Following this we went to a local contractor’s yard and looked at his contracting fleet which was very impressive and very similar to contracting outfits in Northern Ireland. From there we went on a tour of a farm which had just constructed a new twenty-two swing over parlour and had incorporated a new automatic separating gate.
It was very interesting to see an innovative set up which would be different to most parlours at home.
That evening all the members of Helen’s club committee met up with us and we went for a meal. This was a very interesting night as I met a lot of great people and learned a lot about how they run their club, and how it feeds into their county.
On the Thursday Helen took me to meet the County President who farms around 200 acres and breeds Welsh Black cows and native Welsh sheep.
I found this extremely interesting as he has been involved in young farmers for over 50 years and he was a real character who loved sharing his experiences of young farmers over the years.
I had never seen the Welsh Black breed before.
He finishes all bull calves and butchers them and supplies local restaurants, pubs and the general public with the Welsh Black beef. All heifer calves are kept for building the herd’s numbers.
Helen then took me to one of her club member’s farms who breeds pedigree Simmental cattle and shows them at local shows. She also keeps around 500 sheep. When I was there Careys was getting two heifers and a bull ready for Pembrokeshire Show in August. I took the bull for a walk up the farm lane. At the start he was reluctant to move but came round after a minute or two, and the same for one of the heifers however the other heifer was having none of it and took off across the yard into a field.
That night I attended a county meeting of the agri forum where they were discussing their agri study tour to Amsterdam. I found this very interesting as I could compare it to our own agri and rural committee which deals with similar issues and the agri study trip.
On the Friday Helen and I headed into Carmarthen to get a few things for the Welsh show, which was taking place the next day. We then went on to Oak Wood theme park in Pembrokeshire where I had a great time going round all the roller coasters and rides.
Saturday morning came and I headed to the show with Helen and some of her club members to get a good caravan spot for the duration of the show. I spent the Saturday evening and night time getting familiar with the area and local town of Builth Wells beside the show grounds.
On the Sunday I met up with the other exchangees and Wales YFC who showed us where we were all to stay for the time of the show. After settling in and catching up with the other exchangees we headed into Builth again to watch a speed shearing competition.
On the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the show we looked around and enjoyed the Young Farmer activities which Wales YFC had on display – everything from cabaret music sketches, rugby, face painting, girls and boys tug of war, although the girls seemed to get more into it than the boys.
On the Thursday I headed home from Wales after the show. I thoroughly enjoyed the Welsh exchange and couldn’t have asked for a better host family to stay with or a better way to finish off than the Welsh Show.
I mostly enjoyed learning about Wales YFC and meeting people who without doubt will be lifelong friends – I wish I could do it all again.