Welsh organic farmer Gerald Miles has been on an epic quest to rediscover the rare black oats his grandfather once grew in Pembrokeshire fields overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

For a long time it looked like his search would be in vain, and that the black oats were gone for good.

Then, after more than twenty years, Gerald met Iwan Evans Coedfadre, a folk singer and perhaps the last farmer in Wales to have kept black oats alive into the 21st Century.

Llafur Ni - Our Grains, a new film from The Gaia Foundation and Andy Pilsbury, tells the story of how Gerald and Iwan came to meet through singer Owen Shires and the blossoming of a wider grain revival in Wales.

It explores the significance of this revival of grain diversity in a time of climate crisis and why reviving seeds is a crucial part of a wider movement to re-value and pass on the skills, language and culture that have enabled welsh farmers and rural communities to thrive.

In this photo story, written to accompany the film, we explore these same themes through Andy Pilsbury's beautiful images.

Llafur Ni - rediscovering the welsh black oat

Heaven. Gerald Miles sits in the fields of Caerhys Organic Community Farm, Pembrokeshire.

Gerald Miles has been a farmer all his life, inheriting Caerhys farm atop cliffs overlooking the Atlantic from his father and his grandfather before him.

"My family have had that farm since 1938 and it's heaven to me", says Gerald.

Gerald harvests vegetables destined for local vegetable boxes from the fields of Caerhys.

Under Gerald's stewardship, the farm has become a thriving and much-loved community farm. It is home to Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise that provides vegetables to 45 local households every week.

Fruits of the land: vegetables, wildflowers and wheat from Caerhys.

With the help of a long line of WWOOFers and his sons, Gerald produces an abundance of vegetables year-round, as well as raising cattle and growing grains.

He describes Caerhys as "paradise". But despite the obvious abundance of both nutritious diverse food and community spirit in evidence at his farm, for a long time, there was something missing - the Welsh black oats once grown by Gerald's forefathers, but now lost.

Gerald carrying a sheaf of Caerhys wheat.

"My grandfather grew black oats. That's the food they gave to the horses on their farms, before soy came to the world of farming. Black oats were everywhere in the area. They called them the 'Final Furlong' because they gave the animals so much energy. But now they've disappeared", says Gerald.

Today, reviving these black oats, and more generally the ability of farmers to grow their own fodder and animal feed, is an urgent matter says Gerald. Feed crops like soy, grown abroad and imported to feed UK herds of a vast scale, are causing devastating damage in the Amazon and other climate-critical ecosystems.

"Farming needs to come back to using these seeds instead of depending on getting protein, like soy, from other countries. A farm should grow its own cereals and create its own food to feed its own animals", says Gerald.

Quick to laugh, joke and play the odd prank, Gerald has found, and made, his paradise at Caerhys.

Over twenty years ago, Gerald started searching for Caerhys's lost black oats. He asked around neighbouring farms. He put articles in newspapers across Wales. He even managed to source some black oats from Ireland via a rugby tour. But the Welsh black oats of his childhood continued to elude him.

Then, at a meeting of fellow farmers, growers and grain enthusiasts who would go on to form the new Llafur Ni (Our Grains) Network, Gerald met folk singer Owen Shiers.

Owen Shiers, a critically-acclaimed Welsh folk musician and rare grain enthusiast.

"When I met Gerald Miles he struck me as an inspirational man, a man of vision. He told me the story of the search for these black oats and that he'd been searching for these oats for 20 years after they had disappeared from Wales," says Owen.

"At the time I was researching old folk songs from Ceredigion. In the course of that research I met a farmer called Iwan Evans Coedfadre who had been sharing a song or two with me. It turned out that Iwan was growing these oats- black oats!"

"It made complete sense to me that we should do something together and that these (seed saving) skills, which are so fragile, get passed on to the next generation", says Owen, who soon organised a meeting between Gerald and Iwan.

Iwan Evans Coedfadre and his cat Twm, at their farm in Ceredigion where Iwan has maintained the rare Welsh black oat.

Iwan, perhaps one of the last, if not the last farmer growing Welsh black oats, remembers the oats from his childhood in Talgarreg, Ceredigion.

"I'd say the oat has been grown here since my Grandfather was here in 1920, so about a hundred years ago more or less", he says.

"If you were a child on a farm back then, you'd have to be doing some work about the place. If you were 8 or 9 you'd have to collect the (oat) sheafs together and help. The family did most of work until the oats had been stacked and then more people would come to the threshing."

An old threshing machine in Iwan's barn.

Since his youth the number of people growing black oats has dwindled due to changes in technology and attitude, according to Iwan.

"Until the end of the 1960's the oats were cut with a reaper-binder, as had been done for the 40 years previously. Then came the combine harvesters. The oat crops were too long to go through the machine and were a real hassle so that's why the age of the oats came to an end.

"After that there were only a few people here (growing oats), maybe two or three farms in this whole area. In the end, it turns out I'm the only one left", says Iwan.

Iwan scoops up two hand-fulls of the elusive black oat, grown on his farm.

Since their first meeting, Gerald and Iwan have been sharing seeds and exchanging stories. Through their meeting, black oats have found their way back to Caerhys for the first time in many decades.

"It was like finding gold, finding these black oats... I'm now growing over 20 acres of them on my farm," says Gerald.

Welsh farmers gather to thresh heritage grains.

This glimmer of a revival for Welsh black oats holds a broader significance for Welsh rural and farming culture beyond Caerhys and Talgarreg, says Owen.

"There is an obvious connection between the agricultural world and wider culture. Growing food is one of the activities where people come together, celebrating the harvest, for example, and it's these events which sustain culture, it's these events which sustain languages.

"I feel passionately that we need to make an effort to sustain what we have", he says.

The black oat revival team (L to R): Gerald Miles, Katie Hastings, Owen Shiers, Iwan Evans Coedfadre.

The next step for Gerald, Iwan, Owen and a growing group of farmers and growers is to grow Welsh black oats season-on-season, bulking out the small remaining supply of these seeds.

"We've now created the Llafur Ni Network, which means 'Our Cereals', with Katie Hastings who comes from The Gaia Foundation", says Gerald. "Katie has come across other farms in Wales who have old seed and brought us together to create Llafur Ni, pulling people together from all areas of farming."

Together, the members of the Llafur Ni Network are also making strides to revive other heritage grain varieties. It's a process that is bringing back older, better ways of farming that are closer to the land, which Gerald says is just what we need at a time of climate change.

"Coming up here, meeting Iwan, threshing together, and sharing what we know about cereals, it's been so important. It's brought the old language and the old way of thinking together and brought back respect to the old ways", says Gerald.

"I believe that these old ways are what is going to create food for us, keep us in food, in this world where we're experiencing disease and the weather is changing. Rebuilding diversity together is more important than we can possibly realise."