Last week we celebrated our farmhouse breakfast week and it was a roaring success once again. It was excellent to see so many of you round our breakfast table, sharing your thoughts and concerns and helping us to celebrate our fantastic Welsh produce. I’m looking forward to next year’s event already!
Something that is clear to us when we all come together like this across Wales is how important a role our farming community plays in keeping our language and culture alive. Family farms make a significant and indispensable contribution to cultural life in Wales, contributing as they do in the vast majority of Wales to numerous community organisations and events, the maintenance of rural schools and the provision of jobs and economic benefits.
It is truly unique how many people speak Welsh in our rural communities–the number who speak Welsh is around 170% higher than for the next most commonly spoken Celtic language (Bretton, spoken by an estimated 206,000 people), and Welsh speakers make up 61% of all Celtic language speakers in the world, despite the fact that Wales’ population comprises less than 20% of the population of all Celtic countries and communities.
Throughout Wales, those who speak Welsh within the agriculture category make an essential contribution to the preservation of the language in terms of numbers, and in particular in terms of the proportion within the category who speak Welsh (29.5%), which is higher than in any other employment category.
It can be argued that this contribution is of least importance in communities where either the language has largely died out, and the language is spoken by a large majority of the population. In such communities the proportion who speak Welsh within the agriculture category is closer to the overall community average.
While we would emphasise the essential cultural, social and economic role played by family farms in Wales’ non-Welsh-speaking areas, when the use of the Welsh language is taken as a proxy for the cultural importance of an industry it is clear that family farms and the businesses that rely on them are critical to the cultural identity of Wales.
As such, moves which undermine the viability of Welsh agriculture are likely to represent a significant threat to Welsh culture and the Welsh language. Moreover, the FUW would argue that it is incumbent for the Welsh Government and the Commissioner’s Office to focus first and foremost on the protection of existing Welsh speaking families and communities and their continued use of the Welsh language, rather than prioritising the teaching of Welsh to those who are far less likely to ultimately use it or pass it on as a working language while paying less attention to the gradual loss of the language in communities where it is used consistently.
We therefore made it clear at our Cardiff breakfast event that devolution gives us the opportunity to create local and Wales specific solutions to protect the economic viability of our family farms, in the form of the Agriculture Bill currently being considered by the Senedd, which will also ensure the survival of our language and culture. Much is at stake!