A number of progressive farmers who have successfully diversified into ‘niche’ areas of agriculture such as milking ewes for artisan sheep milk cheeses and yoghurts, rearing turkeys or pigs, producing goat meat products, bee keeping and farm tourism enterprises have been approved as mentors providing guidance and support under Farming Connect’s mentoring programme. They join a team which already includes some of Wales’ most successful beef, sheep and dairy farmers.
Although many choose to focus almost entirely on their diversified enterprises, for others the new venture is successfully managed alongside traditional farming or forestry systems, often providing additional income and employment opportunities for the next generation.
Einir Davies, development and mentoring manager with Menter a Busnes, which delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, says that demand for the service has increased significantly since it was launched in 2015.
“As the industry prepares for the opportunities and challenges of Brexit, many farm and forestry business in Wales are already doing everything within their control to increase on-farm efficiencies and introduce new or more profitable ways of running sustainable, resilient businesses.
“We’ve seen this reflected by an increased demand for the mentoring programme in the last twelve months, with many businesses wanting to explore their options for diversified or more specialist ways of farming which could be more lucrative and safeguard the future of the business.”
Farming Connect’s mentoring programme, available to eligible farm and forestry businesses throughout Wales, has already provided guidance and support to 136 businesses with over 775 hours of one-to-one fully funded guidance delivered. The new appointments, which includes farmers with experience of succession planning will bring the team up to 63.
“Selected for their experience, skills and ability to provide up to three days of impartial, confidential guidance across a wide range of land-based sectors, the list of approved mentors includes some of Wales’ most successful red meat, dairy and crop producers as you would expect, but with our additional appointments,
we can now provide specialist knowledge across a very much wider range of sectors and areas,” said Ms. Davies.
From soil and grassland specialists to renewable energy experts, from bunkhouse accommodation to upmarket holiday cottage operators, Farming Connect’s online mentor directory includes farmers, foresters and managers representing a wide range of successful diversified ventures, who between them have experienced both the highs and lows of managing a profitable business, gaining experience and expertise from both aspects.
“What we always look for is mentors with great communication skills, a willingness to share or impart their knowledge and individuals who have first-hand experience of overcoming difficulties, identifying better or more innovative ways of working and finding solutions to problems or challenges,” said Ms. Davies.
The Farming Connect mentoring programme is targeted at farmers and foresters registered with Farming Connect of every age and business status, including new entrants; businesses considering a significant change in direction; individuals looking to exit the industry and businesses facing any particular difficulties or challenges.
The starting point for those wishing to apply is to browse the profiles on Farming Connect’s online mentor directory (www.gov.wales/farmingconnect) until you identify a mentor/mentors with the background and credentials you feel can best support you. Complete and return an online application form, so that Farming Connect can inform your selected mentor and if a match is made, put you both in direct touch. How you agree to communicate is down to what suits you both and can include face-to-face visits, telephone or email conversations, video calling etc.