The group was founded in December 2005, with the assistance of Farming Connect, to encourage growers in the county to work together to improve business for all. Aberglasney Gardens acted as our meeting place and has been very supportive since that time, by continuing to provide a venue for our meetings and hosting some of our plant fairs.
From the outset, the main concern of all was to find better markets for their plants, so a series of plant fairs were started at various venues within the County and has carried on throughout the spring and summer seasons ever since. These are supported by our members and are growing in popularity. Our main aim is to provide locally grown plants with a low ‘carbon footprint’, coupled with the opportunity to discuss these and any gardening problems with others in the county. The experienced growers know how terrible the winters can be for gardens, how windy some sites are, and how an incredible amount of rain can fall in one place in a very short time. However, they also know how many surprising plants can survive these conditions.
The group has been assisted by various non-government organisations (NGOs) and a host of speakers have kept us informed and entertained with interesting and relevant topics. Through Farming Connect we have been introduced to ADAS - the UK’s largest independent provider of environmental consultancy, rural development services and policy advice. Knowledge on where up to the minute information and advice may be accessed has been invaluable. Issues such as Water Conservation; Pesticide & Chemical regulation and safety measures; Alternative Energy producing concepts, are just some of the topics that have been discussed. There is no doubt that this has been one of the great benefits of belonging to the group.
A website was created in 2006 and has recently undergone a redesign. For the cost of their annual fee; all group members are able to advertise their products, services and crafts on the web. It is further hoped that selling on-line will be available in the future. A booklet was also created –replaced in 2009 by a leaflet and consists of all participating members with their map location and is currently distributed by members.
In 2007 it was felt that it was difficult and time consuming to discuss policy in our main meetings, so a steering committee was instigated where such policy issues and matters involving the planning of dates and venues for events, could be discussed at length. Consequently, issues needing the consensus of the wider committee are put before the whole membership, and approval is sought. This has been a great improvement and the enthusiasm and commitment of the committee members has been remarkable.
2008 saw the group begin joint ventures with other professional associations in West Wales and through this it is hoped to develop a wholesale outlet for our businesses. Good contact has been established with the growers in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, and indeed members of the two groups are often invited to set up stalls in our plant fairs.
At the end of September 2009, we held the first End of Season sale hosted by the CGA, with invitations being extended to all growers in the three counties. Further, any small business, whether selling books, photographs, containers, tools, equipment, clothing etc., which has a connection with gardening, the countryside or wildlife were also invited to set up a stall.