When is a food festival not just a food festival?


I’ve been reflecting a bit this week on what I do. That’s partly because it is five years to the week since I moved to Wales and partly because I have been writing content for my new website. Both of these things have prompted me to look at what I’m doing now, how I feel about it and how that compares to how I felt five years ago. 

I arrived in Wales knowing it from childhood snapshots, but not knowing any people beyond family. I just had a strong sense I wanted to be there. Some people thought I was nuts, some said I was brave. I was neither. I was 38, single, financially ok and pretty lost. I had the opportunity to take over some of the land my grandparents farmed. I thought I might want to grow some things. I had done some research on keeping animals. I felt compelled to try something new, right at that point in my life.  I did not have a detailed plan, scared that if I did have one, the risk was I may make a massive fool of myself if it all went horribly wrong.

This was something completely new, a solo adventure. I came to Abergavenny Food Festival in September 2012 as a customer a week after moving here. I spent two sunny days wandering around, attending talks by (amongst others), Joanna Blythman, Jekka McVicar and Carolyn Steel.  I felt my brain waking up. They were talking about things interesting to me and made me think a different life may be possible. I loved being there, surrounded by people enthused about food and its connections. It was an affirmation of my decision to come here. I bought books and did research over the Winter and in Spring I planted and started to rear pigs. In short, it had a lasting impact. It influences what I do now. 

I have been involved in the Abergavenny Food Festival ever since. I got to know James Swift of Trealy Farm Charcuterie – via a chance tweet asking for help on a stand at another food festival which led me to helping them with markets and at Abergavenny Food Festival for the last four years. I have been introduced to countless helpful, inspiring and supportive people who are now my friends.  

In the mean time I grew my smallholding and started a little pig business. I continue to find my way with cockups and hilarity a plenty. Every year I go to the food festival and end the weekend feeling knackered, but fizzing with motivation. Last year I helped in the Festival Farmyard and I’m there again this year – chatting about how my little farm works and hopefully making connections for people about how important farming and food is to life, health and land. I’ll also be back on the Trealy Farm Charcuterie stand with my pals. 

The festival is central to my life in Abergavenny. It fired my imagination five years ago and it will feed my mind and soul again this year. I love the energy and the cheer, the vibrancy of people and their camaraderie. Oh, and the food obviously…

So come and be inspired…or alternatively just eat some of the best food on sale in the UK. 

Anne Tregoning