“Farming Connect helped us make our business more efficient, more sustainable and more profitable,” says a busy wife, mum, karate champion, bio-chemist and farmer from north Wales!

Cheryl Reeves is a farmer, wife and mum who has a hectic work/life balance that would daunt Wonderwoman!

A qualified bio-chemist, she moved to a new job in north Wales in 2006 and soon after met Andrew, the son of a local farm and full-time insurance engineer.

“I fell in love with the whole concept of farming and was determined to learn everything I could about looking after animals and running a business.”

By today, the couple, who now have four young daughters ranging from ten-years-old to18 months, farm 150 acres of land near Bangor-on-Dee.

The couple’s focus has been to steadily develop a successful calf-rearing business which today batch-rears around 400 mainly British blue cross beef cattle. Nurtured to the highest standards in state-of-the-art housing and thanks to a highly efficient automated feeding system, groups of up to 25 cattle are sold on to an expanding customer base at any one time throughout the year.

Encouraged by the support of her local Agrisgôp group, facilitated by local leader Gwen Davies, Cheryl also had the confidence to fulfil a lifetime dream.

Earlier this year, she set up a new social enterprise company called Agri-cation, a community interest company which educates individuals, families and people with special needs on how science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can drive farm efficiency.

Due to the current restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, visits to the new diversified enterprise are on hold for the time being, but Cheryl keeps her profile high by sending out home videos on her own social media platforms.

She is optimistic that when life starts returning to normal, she’ll be well prepared for numerous schools and groups who have expressed interest in the interactive guided farm tours she plans to offer.

Cheryl credits Farming Connect with helping her develop the fledgling 50-acre holding that Andrew and she first rented, into a sustainable, modern and profitable business where she’s been able to put her own scientific knowledge to good use with both the livestock and setting up Agri-cation.

“Thanks to Farming Connect and Agrisgôp, which have supported us across so many areas of developing the business, we have always known where best to concentrate our efforts, and have acquired the knowledge, business and technical skills that have enabled us to develop.

In 2015, Cheryl and Andrew took their own first ‘kitchen table’ business plan to a Farming Connect business review surgery.

“That was springboard for almost everything we’ve achieved. We then applied for ‘digital’ one-one-one business advice – much easier for us to arrange than face-to-face farm visits – from one of Farming Connect’s approved business advisers, Wendy Jenkins of Cara Wales.

“In the intervening years, Wendy has provided ongoing support, ensuring that both our time and money have been put to best use, both from a business management and technical perspective.”

Cheryl has tapped into almost every element of Farming Connect’s skills and training courses, knowledge transfer events and numerous other sector-specific support services. By today, this busy young farmer and entrepreneur, who only a few years ago sought fully-funded one-one-one mentoring from an experienced cattle producer, is now a mentor on the topic herself.

“Farming Connect has helped us make our business more efficient, more sustainable and more profitable, and we would not be where we are today, without such amazing, ongoing support,” she said.

“Through all the training and learning I’ve accessed on topics ranging from grassland management to animal health and welfare, either subsidised by up to 80 per cent or in many instances fully-funded, and the new skills and knowledge I’ve gained, I now undertake more areas of working than I would ever have thought possible, which has a huge impact on our outputs.”

Cheryl says that the many elements of business development, financial and marketing training she accessed through one of Farming Connect’s approved training consultancy farms, Simply the Best, has been invaluable, teaching her skills she utilises every day.

Her willingness and aptitude for learning led to Cheryl winning Lantra Wales’ Learner of the Year award in 2017 and Farm Innovator of the Year in 2019.

So, what next for this busy young entrepreneur who seems determined to push herself to the limits?

“I’m already a second dan black belt in karate and I’m hoping to achieve a taekwondo black belt next, because I believe physical fitness makes a huge difference to mental health and wellbeing for all of us.”

Cheryl’s participation in all Farming Connect activities, including all training courses she has completed, are automatically uploaded to her secure, online ‘Storfa Sgiliau’ personal development record.

To find out how you and your business can benefit from Farming Connect and Storfa Sgiliau, visit gov.wales/farmingconect, or call the Service Centre on 08456 000 813. Alternatively, contact your regional Farming Connect development officer.