Diversification into ‘wild camping’ supported by Farming Connect

A family-owned business in Pembrokeshire has expanded to provide a job opportunity for the next generation with ongoing advice and support part-funded by Farming Connect.

Nick and Gillian Chilton purchased a run-down garden centre on a smallholding at Glasfryn near Fishguard 15 years ago; Nick had worked as a foreman for a landscape company and Gillian was a qualified physiotherapist but when they returned to Pembrokeshire they set up their own business.

That nursery has flourished but the Chiltons reached a crossroads in their professional and personal lives; the garden centre needed capital investment and Nick and Gillian wanted to create an opportunity other than the existing enterprise for their 27-year-old son, Gareth, to join the business.

“The garden centre had plateaued, it was either invest to develop it or take a close look at what else we could do,’’ Gillian recalls.

They had attended a Farming Connect diversification event and that started the process. “We had always rented out our fields to a local farm but we were keen to see if we could earn more money from the land by going down another route,’’ Nick explains.

“We had ideas that we had been considering but we kept putting them off because other stuff got in the way.’’

This is where Farming Connect stepped in to help, to facilitate the knowledge and encouragement they needed. The Chiltons accessed Business Improvement Training to explore the options with Farming Connect-approved training provider, Really Pro.

The support, which also included input from SME Creative, was 80% funded by Farming Connect.

Following that input, the family created a ‘wild camping’ campsite on their land.

“The support we have had through Farming Connect has been absolutely brilliant, it really focused our minds,’’ says Gillian. “It was wide-ranging, everything from website creation to target marketing, and included lots of things that we would not have thought about.

“We had initially been looking at glamping and that is something we might develop in the future but green camping seemed like a good place to start.’’

Six-acre Glasfryn Escapes, with its sea views stretching across to Dinas Head, is registered with The Greener Camping Club.

Gareth, an Outdoor Leadership graduate who had been working as a coasteering instructor since graduating, now runs that side of the business while Nick and Gillian mostly concentrate on the nursery.

The business could also provide an opportunity for their daughter, 25-year-old Rhianna, to join them in the future.

Gillian says the Really Pro course showed the family how to focus their basic ideas and work with those to get clarity in the business model.

“We were shown how to achieve the right direction for our own individual setup and learn the skills necessary to write a workable business plan
“We now know how to work on creating a solid business strategy with financials that are written down and to produce robust systems that support this strategy in order to drive the enterprise forward.’’

The support was very accessible, she adds, and the knowledge gained gave the family confidence to advance the business.

“There is information out there on opening campsites but the support we had was more specific. If it hadn’t been for Farming Connect we would still be thinking about it!’’

Farming Connect is a project that has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Farming Connect clients can access 80% funding towards the cost of completing Business Improvement courses to help individuals develop their skills in areas like marketing, business planning and development, leading and managing, financial recording and VAT. For more information on the funding available please visit the website https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/face-face-training

 

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice. Colin Ley - News reporter