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Winners follow up: Aled Thomas, Harper Adams University, 2019 Agricultural Student of the Year

Young Welsh farmer and trainee agronomist Aled Thomas is a blueprint for the vibrancy and commitment of the young professionals coming into the agricultural industry. Danusia Osiowy talks to the reigning Agricultural Student of the Year.

Aled Thomas is everything you would expect from a stand-out agricultural student. Committed, dynamic and selfmotivated, his unswaying passion for the industry and its future in his home county of Pembrokeshire, Wales, is infectious.

“I have nothing but admiration and respect for every person involved in the agriculture industry,” says Aled, whose family started farming 25 years ago.

“I decided to study a degree in agriculture because I hope to one day be at the forefront of new technology and ideas to ensure the sector I have so much passion for can strive in the future.

“When I started at Harper Adams  University, I was unsure if it was the right decision for me, but after a couple of months settling in I began to realise everyone around had the same interests and passion for agriculture.”

Embracing university life, Aled became a a member of the Harper Cymru Society and the Union Executive as the community engagement officer between the university and the local town of Newport, Shropshire.

Work placement

One of his stand-out experiences was during his work placement with Puffin Produce in Haverfordwest, a co-operative of potato farms which packs about 40,000 tonnes of Welsh potatoes every year and, more recently, other vegetables and brassicas.

He says: “My role at Puffin was to look in fine detail at what each vegetable cost to produce and how we could maximise output while reducing costs, while, at the same time, continuing to produce high quality produce.

“I was also involved in running the harvesting and planting teams, field walking and assisting in crop scheduling and land selection for following crops.

“I learned a completely different side to agriculture than I never had ever knew known before. I went into a different sector than I was used to and it really gets you out of your comfort zone and gets you learning more than you imagine you would.”

Aled’s passion for agriculture and its wider community has become a focal point over the years, particularly in his home county of Pembrokeshire.

In 2018 he was awarded the Shwmae Award for promoting the use of the Welsh language throughout the farming community and Young Farmers movement, a
cause very much close to his heart.


Alongside his studies, Aled continued to play an active role within his local Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) and at a county, Wales and UK level.

He is current chairman of the events and marketing committee for Wales YFC and also been a part of Wales YFC and National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) councils for several years.

Recently he has been appointed as a member of the board of management within NFYC and means he now holds a trustee/director position at four different levels of the organisation from the grassroots right through to a senior level.

He says: “There is one key reason I relish in taking part in these roles within YFC and that is because I started off as a shy, quiet person who would not socialise at all.

“It is the YFC movement and its members that turned me into the outgoing, outspoken individual I am today. I hope throughout my time in the movement I will have done my job properly and have helped younger members in ways I was when I joined.”

Aled recalls one of his best memories with the club as the moment he cycled 250 miles to arrive at the NFYFC’s national convention weekend in Blackpool
with 26 other members, raising more than £25,000 for charity along the way.

“It was gruelling and I never imagined I would make it the whole way, but as the agriculture industry always proves to do, we helped each other out and were stronger as a team on the whole. It was a very proud moment for me.”


After graduating last summer with a 2.1, Aled’s fascination with growing vegetables, particularly brassicas, inspired him to apply for The Elwyn Jones Memorial
Scholarship, which funds a trip for a member of Wales YFC to complete a research topic of their choice every two years.

“I wanted to research how brassica vegetables are grown in the USA compared to how they are grown in the UK and travelled out to California and Arizona
at the beginning of March. But due to lockdown restrictions and processors closing sites in the USA, I returned early.

“I hope to get back out to California as soon as I can after we have seen the back of Covid-19 to finish my trip.”

For now, Aled continues to work as a trainee agronomist at PRAg Agronomy and is looking to complete his BASIS and FACTS training.

But despite his day job, his attention is still very much on the 121-hectare (300-acre) mixed family farm where he has recently become partner with his parents
and other brother.

“I would like to expand the arable enterprise much further and exploit the fact research suggests Pembrokeshire has some of the highest projected wheat yields in the UK.

“We are currently looking into diversification options on-farm and I hope that in the following couple of years the farm will have expanded into different sectors in the industry to ensure it can remain viable for many generations to come.”


Fuelled with ideas for the future, Aled credits his time as an agricultural student as allowing him to explore different career areas before embarking on his own path.

He says: “Although born and bred on a farm, I never really knew how many different job roles and industries there were in the industry until I was looking
at studying a degree in it.

“I can say, without a doubt, studying a degree in agriculture was the best choice I could have made.”

When asked what he is most proud of the answer is two-fold: his achievements in YFC and winning the Agricultural Student of the Year Award.

He says: “Winning the award last year was without a doubt up there as a proud moment. Once upon a time I didn’t think I would make it through the first term, let alone four years. Young people coming into agriculture are the future and those who will be responsible for eventually feeding the nation.

“It can be challenging to dispel the myths around agriculture and events such as the British Farming Awards keep us real and refreshing and relevant. It is a time to share the great work we do and come back stronger.”