Monday, 13 June 2011

The Unpronounceable Lightness of Being ...

June 6th, 1:25 am. I finally get to bed. Its been a bit of a panic, getting everything done (or rather getting most things done and leaving the rest to the disappointed still-to-do-list of missed targets and spurned hope).  
But in a few hours the adventure begins again.  Its the UK Nuffield tour with recent additional dates added (essentially due to getting my act together at the last minute). I lie awake knowing I should be asleep.  The more I think about it, the further away from sleep I get.  Its probably 2:30 before I slip out of consciousness.
June 6th, 3:20 am. The alarm sounds.  I feel like a dairy farmer ... getting up in the middle of the night with an actual purpose and things to do. I slip into the very small, effeminately coloured hire car and turn the key. Vrooom, vrooom.  The full beastliness of the 1.1 litre engine pierces the silence .... eventually I realise I need to disengage the handbrake. Here we go. 
June 6th, 9.10am.  Arrive Chester Sainsburys as ordered by my new wing(wo)man Rona Amiss.  Meet Rona, say hi to her nice friend, wolf down some fatty food and caffine, visit toilets, then me and Rona wait in two completely different areas of the car park for each other.  After a reasonable period of time we eventually meet up and head west.
I have a fondness for North Wales - I bought my first sheep in Anglesey; it was the location of a legendary college “canoeing” trip; had a couple of good friends from there; one SAC visit made me start the farm business and of course The Alarm are North Walians ... quality. But it is another country inhabited by another people, that speak another tongue, one I simply cannot get a grip of.  width="425" height="349src="" frameborder="0" >
"If a man can't change the world these days, I still believe a man can change his own destiny" ... wise words from The Alarm

Rhys Williams farms on the Lleyn Peninsular and is a proper Nuffield Scholar.  He has twice the number of dairy cows as I have sheep.  He is self made.  He is one of the sharpest tools in the box [NB not saying he is a tool but am saying he is sharp].  When we were all together in Washington he came out with more wise comments about business in 7 days than I could hope to do in my lifetime.
We heard his story: how his father had 10 acres and worked for the NFU, how Rhys had worked on farms, then joined DEFRA, then share milked in New Zealand for three years, then came home after a chance meeting with a progressive local landowner.  This pathway has taken him to having a half share in 1400 cows at the age of 36 and with a business that - joining the dots - must be one of the most profitable I’ve come across.

Rhys, a bloke trying to kiss Rhys and some shiny cows

He is focused on the essentials - grass, cows, people.  The system he runs is very simple in its operation but that seems the result of a lot thought. A day a week is assigned to grass measurement and management [see more on my grass nerdy blog], such is the importance of the green stuff to his profit.
He is an agricultural money making machine and should really be listed on the FTSE 100.  He is a bloke you’d want to invest in - and his landlord has - to their mutual benefit. It strikes me he ticks most of the boxes of all the variables involved in the mathematical equation of progression up the farming ladder - he acquired all the skills and is now definitely top 5%; he developed the contacts; he has proved himself a very good investment and generated his own capital as a result;  he concentrated on the essentials and ignored the irrelevant; he has been bold and had the courage of his convictions; he innovated and implemented a system that most local worthies would have shaken their heads at.  But it all worked.  
We say farewell and travel back to the hills.  When you meet someone like Rhys its easy to be hard on yourself ... why aren’t you doing that well?; why aren’t you doing this?; why aren’t you doing that?.  Its been a long road but I now realise that I am me and people like Rhys are people like Rhys ... and that’s OK!

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