Usk farmer David Morgan talks to Kath Skellon about taking over the family farm aged 19, being president of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and receiving an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

“I USED to help my mother milk cows before I went to school and never wanted to do anything else but farming.

My parents were not from a farming background. My mother was a dressmaker and my father was one of 10ten children from Abersychan. He didn’t enjoy the best of health so in those days they sent you to work on the farm. He was able to quietly rent some of the ground off the chap he was working for and started milking a few cows and taking it with horse-and-cart to Blaenavon and selling it door to door.

It expanded and he was then able to rent a farm at Glascoed and from there moved to Little Mill, renting a bigger farm before borrowing the money to buy Trostrey Court in 1943. I am very proud of what my parents achieved.

I was three years old when they moved into the farm. Sadly, in 1947 my father went into hospital to have his tonsils removed and never recovered from the operation. Thankfully, my mother didn’t sell the farm as she was advised to. She retained it and in 1961 the tenant moved out so I was able to take it over when I was 19. It was an opportunity of the lifetime. My mother built a house up the road and farmed 40 acres of land.

In 1961 I moved back into Trostrey Court and married my wife Nancy in the church on the farm. I first met her in the chapel as a girl and we were both on the same bus to school. I went to King Henry VIII grammar school and she went to Abergavenny High School for Girls.

We have three children and five grandchildren. My eldest son Peter, who was born in 1962 works in property development, Sue is a farmer, manages the dairy herd and Andrew manages our construction company Morgans of Usk Limited. Nancy is heavily involved in the business in Usk and has always been a great support.

The farm was mainly arable and livestock farming.

I have always been interested in construction. In fact, before I came to Trostrey I had built some of my own buildings on the farm where my mother was. In 1965, a friend of mine wanted a building job done and gave me the contract. When I finished that I had two more waiting and that led to the birth of Morgans of Usk Limited. I started designing and making buildings here at the farm in the workshop but moved to a site at Woodside Works in Usk and developed the business there. We now employ around 120 people. It’s given me the opportunity over the years to see the world where most people don’t usually go on holiday. We’ve built steel factories and buildings in the Middle East and exported as far as Sri Lanka in the east, Venezuela in the west, Iceland in the north and The Falklands in the south. In 1970, I bought a computer to do out steel designs and paid £48,000 when I could have bought two houses at that time but it put us light years ahead of our opposition and enabled us to create much better designs and save money. We have gone on from that initial computer to being a totally computerised company and have outgrown our site in Usk. We have recently acquired a larger site in New Inn which will enable us to greatly increase our business.

At the same time we decided to go into milk production. We bought a herd of cows and started milking with a second-hand portable milking bail. We replaced this with a modern computerised milking parlour. In 2002, we decided to use computerised robotic milking equipment, imported from Holland and became the first in Wales to do this. We estimate they had done about 2.4 million milkings which for working 13 years without stopping is tremendous. We have just replaced them with new ones.

On the poultry side we built a 140,000-bird broiler unit in 2001 and produce chickens for Morrisons and McDonalds. We produce about one million a year.

Outside of the business, I am president of Raglan Farmers' Club and am heavily involved in Usk Farmers' Club which runs the Usk Show, founded in 1844. In 197,7 I was elected chairman and now have the great honour of being only the third patron.

In 1976. a vote was taken on whether the show should continue through a lack of funds. Now the club owns more than over 160-acres of the showground. Usk Show is an important part of my life and is one of the biggest one-day shows in the country, attracting 25,000 visitors.

I have some tremendous memories from the event over the years. It used to be held at Llancayo but when the farm changed hands we hosted it here for five years because there was nowhere else for it to go.

We have a good team and its run entirely by volunteers.

I like to think I have helped safeguard its future.

I’ve been involved in Gwent Young Farmers, and Usk in particular, all my life and have served as president. It is one of the finest youth organisations in the country. They hold competitions, drama and sport. It’s a great confidence builder.

I am president of the Usk Rural Life Museum and like to think I was instrumental in buying the site, making the museum free for visitors, opening a café and creating a new entrance.

Making it free increased our visitor numbers per year from 1,600 to 8,000. The original entrance was on a side street so we moved it into the main car park in Usk and opened a café. Just last Sunday we had more than over 100 visitors to the museum alone.

I was honoured to be asked to be the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society president. Each year the Royal Welsh Show is held at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells and has a different "host" or feature county which chooses the president. This year it was old Monmouthshire or Gwent. I have always been a spectator of the show but never involved in running it. Within the county there is a committee and for my sins they asked me if I would be president. I didn’t say yes at first. It was a great honour but I wasn’t really aware of the extent of what input was required from me. But I’ve always told my kids to never say no. In December 2013, I was made president elect and then president last December.My term finishes in mid-December after the winter fair.

Each feature county has set upon itself to raise as much money as possible to go into building the infrastructure around the showground. The money raised each year is used for capital projects, for instance, in 2002 when we were last feature county Monmouthshire funded the main south entrance. My role is to head up the committee which is now kick-starting the fundraising towards a multi-million project to revamp the equine area.

Being president at this year’s show was marvellous. We saw parts of the show we have never seen before and met many influential people including the first minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, Stephen Crabb the secretary of state for Wales and the prime minister David Cameron to name but a few. It’s the biggest show in Europe, attracting a quarter-of-a-million visitors.

I won’t stop my involvement in the show after I hand over the chains, I would like to see the equine project completed.

I am also a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Gwent and a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society.

In May I was gobsmacked and very proud to receive a letter informing me that I am to receive an MBE for my services to agriculture and for voluntary service to the agricultural community in Monmouthshire. It came two days before the election so when Nancy read it she thought it was just David Cameron trying to win more votes.

We received hundreds of cards of congratulations from people which is very touching. I am waiting to hear when I will receive the award at Buckingham Palace.

I have seen farming change over the years. There are a lot fewer people employed on farms and technology has moved forward, like the use of GPS for growing crops. We’ve moved into energy generation and use solar panels.

Farming is all I have ever wanted to do and I’ve always believed that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.

I’m 73 but have no plans to retire just yet.”