Report on meeting: Looking for new opportunities in farming and growing? (10 Feb 2021)

 

THREE ACTIONS TO CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

1. FACEBOOK GROUP

A Facebook group has been set up to host the conversation going forward. PLEASE JOIN THIS HERE! This group is for all interested stakeholders.

Opportunities to access land will be shared in this group. Unanswered questions during the event on 10 February will be posted in this group in the next week. A sub-group of pioneering regenerative growers will be formed here.

2. ZOOM MEETINGS AFTER TWO WEEKS

We will hold a Zoom meeting every two weeks on Wednesdays, 1-2pm, starting Wednesday 3rd March. Please register for all the meetings here at once. You will then get a reminder before every meeting and you can attend whenever you wish. You will be able to follow everything that is discussed through the Facebook group.
 
We will focus on the four key issues raised at the recent meeting:
– identifying policy and planning barriers
– finding land
– finding new entrants
– identifying finance for new enterprise

The aim is to act decisively and quickly.

3. REGIONAL FUTURE VISION

A stakeholder group bringing together lead players in food and farming across the region, including statutory bodies, will be created and will meet in the next weeks. This will consider what a regenerative and/or agroecological future, with very substantial increase in growing for local demand, will look like in this region.

 

OPENING PRESENTATIONS

Conversion of a Welsh hill farm to regenerative: Matt Swarbrick, Henbant Farm, North Wales:

 

Starting a new mixed farming business on 3.5 acres: Katherine & David Langton, Langtons Farm, Crickhowell:

 

Starting a market garden: Alice Sidwell and Jonny Watler, Orchard Acre Market Garden, Abergavenny:

 

Agreeing a short-term agricultural tenancy – risks & rewards, John Morris, landowner, Crickhowell:

 

Free support for farmers in our region diversifying into horticulture, Tyfu Cymru:

 

ACTIONS RECOMMENDED BY PARTICIPANTS (all will be implemented!)

  • Set up a mechanism to help everyone keep in contact & continue the conversation.
  • Establish a regenerative farming group in Wales.
  • Develop a collaborative strategic vision between horticulture/agriculture and authorities (local/AONB/NPAs) – what does the future rural landscape look like? How can we ensure our regulatory requirements help deliver this vision?
  • A discussion around changing farm subsidies.
  • A discussion with farmers & landowners, led by farmer to encourage others to offer land for regenerative production.
  • Review provision of training – especially land-based experiential training – in Wales.
  • Investigate interesting young people in regenerative farming through school education programmes.
  • Look at funding opportunities for start-up.

 

OTHER POINTS RAISED

LAND

A request was made to establish a forum for farmers willing to rent land for these kinds of projects to marry up with those who are seeking land? Farming Connect’s Venture programme exists to offer such a service.

How to approach farmers?

Through role-models like John Morris and farmer-to-farmer discussions.

How to ensure tenants are competent?

Find a way to assess applicants – perhaps with help from other farmers?

FINANCIAL VIABILITY

Should small, regenerative farmers get subsidies?

Would it be a mistake to look for handouts to build sustainable futures?

Small-scale horticulture is more often a lifestyle choice and being sustainable is very tough indeed. Will it be viable for new-comers without land or savings to start with? We need clear examples of how this can be profitable.

Post meeting note: please look at Our-food.org for profitable examples of small-scale horticulture and mixed farming from North America and Europe. Langtons Farm is trialling many of the techniques used overseas to see how they work in Wales.

Could the Welsh Development Bank, Powys Regeneration or BBNP offer grants or loans to encourage new enterprise?

SELLING

Some local farmers supply outlets such as Farm Shops, farmers markets, butchers shops etc, or sell through on-line platforms such as Open Food Network, but it’s currently easier to sell direct to consumers – especially since Covid.

Public procurement may be an option as production increases in future, with cooperatives capable of large scale supply, but there’s not enough production yet.

ENCOURAGING MORE PEOPLE TO START IN SMALL-SCALE FARMING

Concerns were raised about some horticultural training not being sufficiently commercial to help businesses succeed, so it’s too big a step for many to get set up.

Land-based learning internships to translate theory into practice, which can be critical to helping people get going, are missing in Wales. What is available tends to be very low or unpaid. How can we facilitate this?

There’s currently not enough taught about the sector to interest young people in this as an option at school. It could be included in e.g. geography, home economics or having kitchen gardens in school. Should the Government be encouraged to introduce more education about food production and farming at school to give a springboard into this industry?

RESOURCES, EVENTS & RELATED INITIATIVES CITED BY PARTICIPANTS

Black Mountains College will be running post-16 Regenerative Horticulture near Talgarth.

Henbant Farm videos.

Swansea area – several CSAs doing 100 + boxes each. 10,000 households.

Transition Monmouth will be having a Climate Futures Festival in late September. One theme will be local food.

Monmouthshire County Council is to host a series of online discussion and information sessions aimed at small community growers, market gardeners, allotment holders and traditional farms in addition to businesses interested in using local produce.

The Landworkers’ Alliance is looking to create a specific new entrant working group to help better coordinate success, struggles, stories etc. and build on the network and link people into wider LWA support. Contact: georgie.styles@landworkersalliance.org.uk

Chris Graves – new micro-greens business – ca.graves@hotmail.co.uk.

There is a food “summit” on 16th March presenting Carmarthenshire’s Target Driven Model for Local Food Procurement on the Public Plate with Guests Speakers from the Copenhagen Model and the South West Food Hub Model – for more info feel free to get in touch alexcook@swperbox.cymru

Tyfu Cymru is offering free horticultural training for commercial enterprises in Wales.

Orchard Acre Market Garden in Abergavenny will be very happy to have people come and visit too, when circumstances allow.

Langtons Farm would like to set up a group for organic regenerative farms in Wales. Working with other local farms has really helped us this past year and building on that would be really beneficial.

Matt Swarbrick would like to set up a network of regenerative farms in Wales. If interested, email matt@henbant.org.

 

This project is supported by the Sustainable Development Fund of the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and the Vale of Usk Rural Development Programme.

  

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