A young farmer is farming in his own right after gaining support and confidence through Farming Connect initiatives to apply for the tenancy.
Aled Harper, a qualified carpenter, grew up on a smallholding in Pembrokeshire and had set his sights on one day having his own holding and establishing a catering business as an outlet for home-produced lamb and pork.
To progress his ambitions, he joined an Agrisgôp group, a fully-funded Farming Connect management development programme that encourages eligible farmers to get together to take forward business ideas.
He also secured 22 hours of Farming Connect one-to-one mentoring with the Agrisgôp group leader, Lilwen Joynson.
The support, guidance and confidence those initiatives gave Aled resulted in him applying for the tenancy of a 32-acre county council farm a short distance from the family holding at Snipes Bay, Camrose.
“The other Agrisgôp members gave me very good reasons why I should go for it and, because opportunities like that don’t come around very often, I felt I should try for it,’’ explains 26-year-old Aled.
He had already been exploring with Lilwen and the group his ideas for a catering business so the tenancy offered the opportunity to farm more pigs and sheep to supply that enterprise, over and above the livestock he runs on his parents’ smallholding.
When he received the call informing him he had been awarded the five-year Farm Business Tenancy it was a dream come true.
“It is a little daunting that the dream has now become reality so it is good to have the continued one-to-one mentoring and membership of the Agrisgôp group to help me through the next steps,’’ Aled says.
He has also secured Farming Connect Advisory Service funding for business planning and marketing advice to progress his catering business.
The package of support provided by Farming Connect has been invaluable, he admits.
“When Lilwen and I meet for the one-to-one mentoring we set a goal that I have to achieve before the next meeting based on the discussion we have had during that session.
“I have also gained so much from Agrisgôp, we bounce ideas around and many of the ideas we present at the group are improved by the input of the other members.’’
Aled encourages others to also grasp the opportunities available through Farming Connect.
“We are very lucky in Wales to have Farming Connect and all the support and advice that provides. I am sure I wouldn’t be at this point now had it not been for that.’’