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If you think VPAs are all about Annual Shows and who can grow the best carrots and fanciest onions, well you’d be quite wrong. There’s much more to it than meets the eye as I recently found out.
Llantilio Pertholey VPA

Llantilio Pertholey VPA

I’ll admit, when I went along to meet the Chairman of Llantilio Pertholey’s VPA, Malcolm Brinkworth and Assistant Treasurer, Geoff Slater, I knew next to nothing about Village Produce Associations, apart from what I’ve recently seen Kirsty Allsopp doing on telly. After a chat about the organisation’s long history as well as their packed diary of events for the year, I quickly became aware that this VPA is one of Abergavenny’s best kept secrets.

The history of VPAs is firmly rooted in the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign; an initiative launched during the Second World War by the Ministry of Agriculture to encourage everyone to grow produce in their own gardens in order to meet their family’s food needs. By 1958, in Monmouthshire alone, there were 20 VPAs in existence.


Everyone can join in

The Llantilio Pertholey VPA was formed back in 1956 and the first General Meeting took place in the old Women’s Institute Hut in the Mardy for a princely rental cost of 7/6p. By the next meeting, the WI Hut was bursting at the seams as more than sixty people crammed in to attend. Although many VPAs have since dissolved, the Llantilio Pertholey VPA continues to go from strength to strength.

So what’s their secret? Perhaps it was their success in competitions against other VPAs that kept them going, or the guest presenters who speak at their meetings on a variety of interesting subjects. Maybe it has something to do with all the events they have going on throughout the year such as jumble sales, barbeques, coffee mornings, Harvest Suppers, Christmas dinners and of course, the Annual Members Show. It seems to me, however, that the secret of the Llantilio Pertholey VPAs longevity is that it has adapted to become much more than making comparisons between carrots and cauliflowers, and is now a social hub within our community. The welcoming nature and friendliness of its members, along with an ability to adapt to changing times and welcome the suggestions and ideas that arrive with new members, also helps to keep things fresh!

Of course, running parallel to their frequent outings and events is the Annual Members Show, which takes place on the first Saturday in September. This is open to both members of the VPA and the general public. How competitive is it? Malcolm explains that there is an element of friendly rivalry but it’s all very light-hearted. Not so in years gone by when members used to arrive with their entries in wheelbarrows! With Spring in the air there seems no better time to plant some seedlings in preparation for this year’s Annual Members Show. I quite fancy the idea of cultivating an enormous pumpkin in my greenhouse and playing Brahms to it to encourage growth. This September, watch out – I’ll be the one with the wheelbarrow!

A recent outing to actor John Challis’ house, (famous for his role as Boycie)

The VPA is keen to welcome new members, young and old. There truly is something for all ages and all interests. For more information about membership please contact Chairman Malcolm Brinkworth on 01873 850115 or Secretary Maureen Braithwaite on 01873 856067 or email

The next meeting will be held on 16th April in Mardy Hall – details can be found in the events calendar at the back of the magazine.


Article by Hannah Hill

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