A feature covering Sioned's sabbatical leave.
My name is Sioned Davies and I am a member of the Product team, working as a Product Development Executive. I grew up on my family beef and sheep farm in Wales and studied Agri-Food Marketing with Business Studies at Harper Adams University, where I graduated in 2020. I started at Oxbury in September of that year on the graduate scheme, where I completed rotations within the Credit and Risk, Sales and Marketing teams. My role at Oxbury consists of developing, launching and managing new products, of which one is Oxbury New Gen, a product designed specifically for new entrants to agriculture.
I have a keen interest in agriculture and agricultural practices in other countries, and in 2022 I was fortunate to be granted a 6-month sabbatical, where I decided to spend 3 months in Colorado and 3 months travelling in South America, visiting countries including Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
During my stay in Colorado, I lived with three host families across the state, starting with a few weeks in Boulder, where we hiked the flatirons and camped in the Rocky Mountain National Park. My second host family were located south of Boulder in a small town called Rye. I attended the Colorado State Fair and experienced my first American rodeo. I was also fortunate enough to spend the day with farmers on the Pueblo Mesa, which is an area that mainly grows pinto beans, melons, corn, and the popular Pueblo chili.
Water scarcity is the major problem facing the south of Colorado, where most of the major arable and vegetable farmers are located. Colorado is one of two states in the USA that produce their own water, the snowpack is important and is used to predict the following year’s water availability. However, water rights, and how they are allocated in the US are complicated and favour established farms with ‘senior’ water rights. They have priority of the water meaning that in a drought, farms that hold junior water rights must divert the water flowing onto their land to farms with senior water rights.
I also spent the day with the local Future Farmers of America (FFA) in the high school and I gave presentations to various classes about farming in Wales, where I have grown up on my family’s beef and sheep farm. It was great to be able to interact with the school children and I hope they learnt as much from me as I did from them! One of the highlights was also hiking part of the continental divide trail and being at the top of Pikes Peak (which is over 14,000 feet above sea level).
My final host family were based in Rifle which is where I spent time gathering cattle on horseback and witnessing the benefit of virtual fencing for ranchers on 10,000 plus acres.
The second part of my trip took me to South America, specifically Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Peru and Bolivia were dominated by natural beauty, and being able to see Machu Picchu and the vast Salt Flats in person was a surreal experience.
In Chile we spent the day at Propal, a major fruit and veg exporter. We had a tour of the pack house followed by a handful of farm tours looking at avocados and oranges. Avocados are grown on steep hillsides because they do not need pesticides, but they are sensitive to frost, so planting them on steep hillsides helps to prevent frost damage. Although this does mean that the avocado pickers must wear football boots to pick the fruit!
In Argentina we visited Estancia Caldenes which is an 82,000 hectare, 34,000 head herd of mainly Hereford cattle located in the La Pampas region. The farm completed a study in which the result showed a Carbon Footprint of the site of -22,351.07 tons of CO2e which means they capture more tons of CO2e than they emit, which makes the net result/hectare of Estancia Caldenes equal -1.22 tons of CO2e.
We met with the Minister of Agriculture for Uruguay and had a very interesting discussion regarding how he saw Uruguay’s place in the world. It is a large country in terms of area, but only has a small population of 3 million people, with agriculture contributing significantly to their gross domestic product (GDP). Uruguay has been practising regenerative agriculture for 10+ years with zero tillage (no ploughing) and pasture fed/finished beef standard practise. But up until now they have not been measuring or capturing this data, however, they are currently attempting to build a system to capture this, to gain access to UK/EU markets. This is where they want their beef to end up.
The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet people with a variety of backgrounds, experience multiple cultures and learn more about the global food and farming industry.
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