Farming Connect is focussing on small scale diversification ventures that have the potential to scale up, in an online programme of events targeted at smallholders and farmers.

The series of events is part of this year’s ‘remote’ Royal Welsh Smallholding and Countryside Festival which launched in May but remains available online.

Beekeeping, which does so much to improve biodiversity; a recently established cut flower and ‘pick your own’ soft fruit enterprise set up during lockdown, together with guidance on running a successful, high quality pig unit, are all key themes.

Farming Connect events manager Ffion Rees says that although it hasn’t exactly been ‘business as usual’ for Farming Connect because the pandemic curtailed so many face-to-face activities, the ability to reach out online with events, training courses, webinars and sector-led projects has enabled the programme to support and remain in regular contact with thousands of farmers and foresters throughout Wales.

This year’s spring festival programme includes online presentations on ‘Getting started in beekeeping’ from Farming Connect’s knowledge exchange manager and qualified beekeeper Lynfa Davies; a fledgeling PYO fruit and flower enterprise set up by Lucy Owen from Rhuthin, a busy young mum with an appetite to set up her own new business, and specialist guidance for those either already keeping pigs or keen to get started.

“We’ve brought together a number of experts and mentors, all happy to share their experience and wisdom with others thinking of setting up or expanding a new diversified venture,” says Ffion.

Lucy Owen, who lives and farms in north Wales, is a young wife, mum to three young children and she has a part time job as a book keeper. In 2019, with her youngest child settled in nursery school, Lucy decided she was ready for a new challenge.

“The turning point for me was applying for Farming Connect’s Agri Academy which gave me new friends, new networks of like-minded ambitious individuals and the confidence to believe that I really could and in fact should, set up my own new business,” she said.

Knowing that she needed to find something sufficiently flexible to fit with the demands of a young family and her book-keeping role, Lucy, who has a degree in agriculture and marketing from Aberystwyth University, decided her long-standing hobby of growing fruit, vegetables and flowers for the family could be turned into a new steam of income.

You can find out how Lucy’s ‘lockdown’ project of diversifying into horticulture, at a small plot on the family farm, located on a busy tourist road between Denbigh and Rhuthin, is taking shape as she prepares for a Farming Connect ‘open day’ this summer, PYO visitors and next autumn’s hoped-for pumpkin bonanza.

Together with Menter Moch Cymru, the Menter a Busnes programme looking to develop the pig sector in Wales, specialist pig vet Bob Stevenson and high-profile young farmers and pig breeders Cennydd Jones and Naomi Nicholas who farm in Ceredigion, deliver two webinars.

The first, by Bob Stevenson is on the topic of what to look out for when purchasing pigs, what to avoid and isolation and integration protocols. The second webinar gives an insight into Cennydd and Naomi’s journey since taking part in the Menter Moch Cymru and Wales YFC pig finishing competition in 2017.

Farming Connect will also use its planned programme of online festival presentations to promote its wider provision of sector-specific training courses and animal health workshops, e-learning modules, events, webinars and specialist projects on these topics and many other areas of farming and forestry.

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Follow Farming Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to tune in for the pre-recorded RWAS Smallholding and Countryside Festival presentations at a time that suits you.