A FARMING mum from Powys has beaten the best of Britain to be named as the winner of the Best Farm Enterprise Award in the Countryside Alliance Awards.

The awards, nicknamed the Rural Oscars, were handed out by the Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom MP at a Parliamentary reception when businesses from across England and Wales, who had already won their regional title, came to Westminster to find out if they had taken the national title.

Hayley Hanson makes beautiful things out of leather from her artisan workshop and tannery on her Llandefalle farm in the Brecon Beacons.

The business was set up in 2011, after Hayley struggled to find anywhere in the UK that could tan the hide of one of her pedigree cattle. She discovered there was a real gap in the market for a company selling hides from British cattle, and the idea for her business was born. Hayley established her own micro-tannery and began to experiment with ideas for leatherwork products.

The company now sells a growing range of artisan products made with British leather and hide, including rugs, bags, belts, jewellery and other accessories. Each item is individually handcrafted using traditional techniques, with an added pinch of very modern style. Many items can be customised or made to order.

Hayley’s products are made from hides from the farm’s own herd of pedigree British Blue cattle and those from local farms in mid-Wales and Herefordshire. This means the company can guarantee the highest standards of animal welfare and know exactly where all their hides have come from.

“We own a pedigree and commercial herd of cattle and raise the heifers and steers not destined to join the herd for beef. All our leather and hide is a by-product of the beef industry,” she said.

“As with all farms in the UK, we adhere to the highest standards of animal welfare. Our cattle have happy lives grazing on lush Welsh pasture, with occasional treats like pumpkin.”

At the awards event in the House of Lords, the Environment Secretary told the assembled rural businessmen and women: “Rural businesses are not just the beating heart of our countryside – they are also a vital part of the UK’s economy, generating almost £230 billion every year.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “This category is dominated by feisty farming women, and our champion is an energetic one-woman enterprise. The strand of the business for which this mother of three is being rewarded today began in 2011 when Hayley got married and couldn’t find someone in the UK to tan the hide of the heifer killed for their wedding breakfast.

“She has since developed a network of people who can help her do parts of the process with the hide coming back to her micro-tannery on-farm. Products made on site include hide rugs, footstools, handbags, bound notebooks and a recent contract with a pewter company to make bound hipflasks.

“Smaller pieces and hairs are also marketed and snapped up by fly fishermen for tying. Hayley recently won a contract in New York for goods to complement a range of luxury bathroom items.

“Hayley Hanson Hide markets her services direct to farmers, including those who have excelled in the show ring and at fat stock sales, and being able to produce a hair-on-hide of their favourite beast. Hayley uses local people, skills and resources, including a local engraver for hip flasks, Ludlow Bookbinders for diaries and notebooks etc. Hayley is community minded and keen to support organisations and groups, offering a percentage off goods for the local hunt and Young Farmers.”