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Wednesday
17  April

Farming a future

 
20/02/2024 @ 09:32

 

Future-proofing her family’s upland farm near Guilsfield is a priority for fourth generation farmer Anna Jones who is diversifying the business to ensure long term survival.

Anna was working in the equine sector in 2016 when she decided she wanted her future to be in agriculture, farming 150-hectares with her parents, John and Sally.

As her brother, Matthew, had pursued a career in property development, she was the link to securing a future for Tir Newydd Farms under the family’s stewardship.

“I decided to take the opportunity to run the farm in order to keep it in the family,” said Anna.

That involved a rethink of the existing enterprises, which at that time included a flock of 800 Welsh Mule ewes, a small flock of pedigree Charollais sheep, and a herd of 45 suckler cows.

“I knew we needed to do something alongside livestock farming, and diversifying into holiday accommodation offered the potential for financial security.

Before making the decision, Anna wanted to gain confidence that it would work, and found the conduit for this in the form of Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp programme.

This farmer to farmer learning programme brings groups of like-minded individuals together to help develop their businesses by gaining the confidence, skills and knowledge to turn their ideas into reality.

A series of meetings arranged by Agrisgôp leader; Elaine Rees Jones proved invaluable.

“We were given the opportunity to decide which speakers we wanted, it was very much bespoke to the group,” Anna explained.

“This was hugely beneficial because we were at the start of our journey and we didn’t know which level of grading we wanted to pitch our accommodation at,” recalled Anna. 

The family opted for a high-end luxury holiday let, which was developed in an existing building and opened for business in August 2021.

“We would still have gone ahead without Agrisgôp but it definitely gave me the confidence to ask the right questions to different people along the way, instead of going into it blindly,” said Anna, who has been supported by her partner, Guy Ennever, who previously ran businesses in the hospitality industry and now farms part time at Tir Newydd as well as being involved in other enterprises including tree planting and felling.

“We plan to extend the holiday business further whilst keeping Tir Newydd as a working farm, which will mean making a few tweaks to get everything to run more smoothly,” she said.

To balance the workload this has generated, commercial ewe numbers have been reduced to 500, however, they aim to increase the size of the suckler herd.

High health and productivity are central to the performance of the sheep and cattle and when the Jones’ ran into trouble with these, they were again able to reach out to Farming Connect for help.

Iodine and copper deficiencies were suspected in the cattle so blood testing was carried out by Trefaldwyn Vets funded through the Farming Connect Animal Health Clinic.

That service also provided funding towards the cost of metabolic profiling the herd and flock.

“We experienced some abnormalities in the unborn lambs at scanning so we undertook metabolic profiling to pinpoint the cause,” said Anna.

For any new farming entrant, there is much to learn. Anna didn’t study agriculture at university and her knowledge of farming extended to what she has picked up from her father over the years.

An opportunity for fully funded mentoring, from a farmer with a similar system, was one that Anna seized upon.

Through the Farming Connect Mentoring service she was paired with award-winning beef and sheep farmer Dafydd Parry Jones.

He has shaped his business near Machynlleth around a low input system and this is the direction that Anna would like Tir Newydd to follow also.

Inspired by Dafydd’s red clover leys, the Jones family will be growing their own this year.

Anna has also received funded advice on grassland and crop management from agronomist Marc Jones, through the Advisory Service, and also advice from vet Fiona Lovatt on livestock management and performance.

Succession has to be considered when a new generation comes into the business but those conversations can sometimes be difficult.

To kick start the process, the Jones’ turned to Farming Connect’s Succession service, where guidance was offered by experienced mediators.

“It really helped to start the conversation and to open up ideas a bit more,” said Anna.

“I am very grateful for all the help we have had from Farming Connect, to get us to this point, and I’m really excited to see how our plans develop going forward.”

For more information on what Farming Connect has to offer please visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect or contact the Farming Connect service centre on 03456 000 813.