by Alan Davies, FUW managing director
AS A little lad, I lived in London and went to the Welsh School in Willesden Green. I’m not sure how much I learnt there, (I do know that I didn’t learn to write in Welsh which continues to disappoint me) but I do remember what we did nearly every Friday – we had chips for lunch. Mrs Whitmarsh, our cook, used to go out every Friday morning to get us each a bag of chips and we sat there every week excited to be having such a treat. I mention this because I’m sure that there is something powerful about bringing people together around a meal. For many of us the last week of January was dominated by a country-wide range of Farmhouse Breakfasts as once again members of the Union opened their doors to host friends and allies to all that is great about Welsh produce. And, of course, we hosted our Annual Farmhouse Breakfast in Y Senedd in Cardiff. All these events raised over £6,500 for the British Heart Foundation, our President’s charity for this year. But they did something far more important in my mind, they brought people together, to sit around a table in order to engage and talk. And there really is no stronger place for bonding people together than over good food. That is why, in his speech at the Senedd, Glyn Roberts welcomed those attending and thanked them for being prepared to sit around our table, in order to share experience and understanding and of course to make us all far more aware and informed. We will continue with this theme for much of this year, not because I like eating but because it works for me as a way of communicating. We have to get people around our table to get them to understand our views and opinions, and we also need to sit at other people’s tables to help understand their views and opinions. We cannot change the world or even a small part of it on our own and working together is essential to create change. I believe in the concept of Co-opetition, one where people and organisations who are in competition with each other can also cooperate with each other to mutual beneficial change. As we look to the future we face a change to our political landscape, the Welsh Assembly elections are likely to deliver significant change, either through retirement or results, and we need to be prepared to invite new faces to join us at our table. We are already preparing the issues for discussion so that we are fully prepared come the election results in early May. The Police and Crime Commissioners are also to be re-elected on the same day and we will need to be prepared to get around the table to discuss rural crime and other important issues with them individually. The EU referendum is about to kick off (I’m writing this on the day that David Cameron is in Brussels for “The” summit) and when that happens there will be new campaign groups established whose arguments we will seek to understand. We will invite them to sit around our table so that we might better understand their views and also give them a chance to ensure that they understand our thoughts as well. At a county level, we are inviting all parties to take part in election hustings, around a large table to share views and get local feedback. Some have challenged the value of these events suggesting that politics has changed and hustings as not the way to stimulate communication. To this, I would say, it is our duty as a Union to ensure that events like hustings do take place. We have to ensure that the voice of rural communities are heard throughout Wales. If we don’t do it. who will fill that gap? Does anyone else have as big a table as the Farmers of Wales? Finally back to Brussels: as I drove to work this morning I heard on the radio that the Friday morning of the Summit Leaders was due to start with a “Full English Breakfast”, but sadly this had been postponed to an “English Lunch”. I think this shows that even in Europe, getting around a table is seen as a great way of getting people to work together. Perhaps if they could hold these Summits in Aberystwyth we could help them get some better progress over a proper Welsh Farmhouse Breakfast.