Farming in the blood...
A conversation with Aled Jones, Hendy Farm, Llanfaglan near Caernarfon.
Aled, you’re a very busy man, running the family farm. Tell us a bit about yourself.
We moved as a family from Trawsfynydd to Caernarfon in 1963 and we’ve been farming here ever since. I was the fourth of five children. Farming was in my blood from the outset and after leaving school I went on to Reading University to study Agriculture. I gained some experience working on arable farms in France and England but I always intended to return home. After I returned home, I was full of youthful enthusiasm and I really enjoyed putting my education into practice.
I’m married to Eilir and we have four children. Life has changed quite a bit recently since my eldest son has taken over more of the management of the farm, which has freed me to undertake a wider range of duties. I am deputy president of NFU Cymru and chair of Cattle Information Services. And I also help to lead a local church – Eglwys Efengylaidd Gwyrfai, Llanrug.
It’s clear that farming is in your blood but what about the connection with the church – have you always been religious?
I was brought up to attend the local chapel and to take part in its activities. I recall that I caused a bit of a stir in a Scripture lesson (as it was called then!) in the sixth form when I asked the teacher what it meant to be a Christian. He suggested that I should talk to Reverend Ioan Davies, the then minister of Caersalem Baptist Church, Caernarfon.
After arriving at university there was so much freedom, and I got involved in many different activities, especially rugby. Despite the freedom, I still felt restless and I tried to attend church occasionally. During my time at university I came to know two students who were Christians. They obviously had something in their lives that I didn’t. Their lives were consistent with their faith.
By my second year I had gained a place in the University’s first rugby team, and I was thrilled, but then a bout of glandular fever left me weak and despondent. Where previously I had turned down the invitations of my two friends to accompany them to the university’s Christian meetings, now I accepted and heard clear preaching with the invitation to come and believe in Jesus Christ and receive his forgiveness. And that’s what I did, it was as simple as that! It was God’s grace that brought me to that point and that same grace has sustained me ever since.
Being close to the soil and to nature can teach us lessons. What lessons have you learnt, I wonder?
Working on a farm always keeps you close to nature. I am amazed at God’s work in creation in big and small ways. Nor are you ever far away from the effects of sin, death and the fragility of life, thorns and thistles choke new growth and crows destroy the grain in the barley field. I took a picture last year of a nest of swallow chicks with their mouths open waiting to be fed, which reminded me of our need for food for the soul.
A lesson which always makes an impression on me is when a ewe loses her lamb and is persuaded to adopt a lamb by placing the skin of the dead lamb on another lamb. It reminds me of what happens to us when we come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have all broken God’s law and so are guilty and unclean before him, but when we come to believe in Jesus we are given a new garment – Jesus’ righteousness. God no longer sees our uncleanness, rather he sees Jesus’ perfect life. That is the meaning of the words in the old Welsh hymn that talks about “clothing me in his righteousness, beautiful before the Father”.
You clearly have faith Aled, but does that help you in your work?
Life is bound to bring cares and trials, they are unavoidable, but my faith always takes me back to God – he is my helper. I remember years ago, when I was a going through a difficult time, I heard a sermon about the quarrel between Abram’s shepherds and those of his nephew Lot (in Genesis chapter 13).To resolve the problem Abram offered first choice of the lands to Lot (so that they could go their separate ways). Lot saw the fertile plain and claimed it, and Abram had to be content with the poor, stony mountain land. But God looked after Abram and blessed him. Ultimately, we too have to consider our real need and that God’s grace and favour is so much better than anything the world can offer us.
The Bible has many illustrations from agriculture. Which is your favourite illustration?
Well, no surprise here! “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I’ve never had much patience with sheep and by the end of the lambing season on the farm, I’m reminded why! They create so much work, they insist on wandering off, getting stuck and going to dangerous places!
The Bible says that we are the same – In Isaiah 53 it says: “All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the Lord gave him the punishment we deserved.
Thank God that he is the Good Shepherd, as it says in Psalm 23.
There is a lot of debate on the economy and the future of farming and other industries but what, in your opinion, is Wales’ greatest need?
From the standpoint of agriculture? It’s an old industry and I know from experience what the Bible means when it says ‘by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread”. But we certainly have a role to play in helping in the great challenge of feeding humanity. It took 120 years for the world population to increase from 1 to 2 billion, but only 12 years to increase from 6 to 7 billion in October 2011! Agriculture is vitally important to our world and our country.
After reflecting on how to answer the previous question there is only one answer to everyone’s need, as it says in the Bible “What is the point of gaining everything the world has to offer, and losing your soul?” Is there anything that is more valuable than the soul?”
We need Jesus’ message to reach the hearts of more people in Wales, and for lives to be changed by his love.
This article has been translated from the Welsh 2017 issue of 'Holi'.