Posted 20 July
Sion receiving his award at the Royal Welsh Show – from left: Ian Rowley, Stategic Advisor at Harper Adams University, Davina Fetherstonhaugh, Sion Thomas, and this year’s Show President, Harry Fetherstonhaugh FRAgsS OBE.
The winner of the Harper Cymry/Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Student of the Year award 2022 has said the prize will have a deeper meaning for him - thanks to family tradition.
Sion Thomas was raised on a 252-acre sheep farm near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire, which has been in his family for generations.
The final year BSc (Hons) Rural Enterprise and Estate Management was named the RWAS/Harper Cymry Award 2022 recipient at this year’s Royal Welsh Show – the first to be held in-person since the coronavirus pandemic.
The Student of the Year award was established in 1999 by the late Bill Ratcliffe, a Harper Adams Fellow and founder of the Harper Cymry alumni association.
It is open to final year undergraduates who have lived in Wales for at least the past five years, who have contributed to the Harper Cymru student society and the broader Harper Adams student community – and who are deemed a promising future ambassador their University.
Sion said: “Winning this prestigious award is a great honour to me – my family are very proud and I know that my recently passed father would have been too.
“The fact I am able to receive this award at the Royal Welsh Show is important to me, as my father won a similar award back in his youth.
“The Harper Cymru Society has been great for us Welsh students to make friends within a University outside of Wales. It has been a great experience meeting people from around the country with things in common and mutual friends.
“I encourage all Welsh students to join the Harper Cymru Society to gain new friends and valuable experiences.”
Sion was presented with the award at a special reception at the show, and was joined by both 2020 and 2021 recipients Lewys Jones and Luned Jones, who were unable to receive their awards in person due to the pandemic.
All recipients of the award receive a cash prize, in addition to an invitation to join the exclusive Future Farmers of Wales- a high-profile group of proven, practical young famers whose discussions and views help to shape the future of farming in Wales.
Royal Welsh Show Chief Executive Steve Hughson said: “The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society is proud to support this Award which recognises the outstanding potential of the next generation.”
Sion – who is a keen rugby player both at home in Wales and at Harper Adams, where he has played the first and third teams – has combined his University studies with work on the family farm.
He describes working the land his family have for generations as a ‘great privilege.’
He explained: “As a keen stockman, I help out daily on the homestead. After the passing of my father in March 2020, I have been required to adopt more responsibilities on the farm, undertaking daily jobs and general husbandry of the stock and land, whilst playing a lead role in seasonal duties.
“I enjoy spending time on the farm with my family, whether it be rain or sunshine. Working at home gives me great pride, to work the land my father and grandfather farmed before me, it is a great privilege.”
Sion hopes to expand upon his studies at Harper Adams in the near future, working for further professional qualifications in either land agency or agronomy – as he describes both as ‘keen interests.’
However, whichever route he chooses to follow, he remains confident that he will continue to help out on the family farm as much as he can.
He added: “My four years at Harper Adams University has been a memorable experience, I have managed to create memories that will last a lifetime, with people from all around the UK, many of which I can consider close friends.
“Harper Adams has opened many doors for me as an individual and I cannot thank the University enough. I have managed to gain many new contacts in different industries that will help me within the future when in different lines of work.
"I have gained a great deal of work experience through my time at University, which will no doubt be useful when trying my hand at new opportunities in life.”