THINKING outside the box, or to be more precise, a highly customised horse box, where you can buy ‘farm fresh’ milk from a ‘mobile’ vending machine, has proved a winning idea for a family of third-generation Ceredigion dairy farmers now selling their milk directly to hundreds of customers.
The purpose-designed trailer, emblazoned with the eye-catching branding of ‘Llaeth Llanfair’ has proved a popular attraction for customers in Lampeter, Cwmann, Tregaron and Llanybydder who clearly enjoy both the taste and experience of buying pasteurised milk and syrup-flavoured shakes fresh from the farm, in their own locality.
Milk vending machines have proved a rapidly expanding market throughout the UK and Europe in recent years, boosted by customers keen to avoid busy supermarkets during the pandemic.
Laura Jones of Llanfair Fach farm, her husband Dafydd and his brother Guto, farm an 800 acre dairy holding in Llanfair Clydogau near Lampeter. The trio, with full approval from the two brothers’ parents, took their diversification ideas one step further than many families when they decided to set up a mobile service, rather than positioning their vending machine within the farm boundary or in just one fixed permanent location.
“Having a specially kitted-out trailer means that we can tow it to areas where we identify a need for this type of service, where we’re pretty confident about footfall levels and have permission from the site owners,” says Laura.
The Jones family have recently purchased their second milk vending machine, which is located inside the forecourt convenience store at Valley Services, a garage on the outskirts of Llandysul, ahead of the expected stream of visitors heading for the Ceredigion coastline this summer.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support and advice we received through Farming Connect initially and then Cywain, whose mentors specialise in providing support for food and drink producers,” says Laura.
Both organisations are delivered by Menter a Busnes and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, offering complementary services and support to businesses in Wales.
“Our diversification journey first began with technical help and guidance from Farming Connect, which our family has tapped into over many years, on issues such as nutrient management planning of the soil, our grazing strategy and animal health topics, which together have contributed to the land performing at peak levels and our herd of 400 Friesian cross Jersey cows being in the best possible condition to produce top quality milk.
Each cow produces around 6,500 litres of milk per annum sold on contract to First Milk, but Laura explained that with an ever-increasing surplus year on year as more heifers are retained, she was determined to drive forward her idea of selling any excess milk direct to the public.
“I talked to other farmers already selling through vending machines and persuaded the family that we should press ahead with the project, which although costly in terms of finance and time when you start, definitely has the potential to pay back the initial investment and create a new stream of income within a relatively short time.”
Alongside buying and customising the horse box and Laura commissioning a graphic designer friend to design the new brand, the family also created a purpose-built facility which houses an in-line pasteuriser, close to their herringbone milking parlour.
Recognising that getting the marketing right would be a critical factor in making the venture successful, in August 2020, Laura attended a Farming Connect diversification surgery with experienced marketing consultant Clare Hester of Landsker. The hour-long one-to-one session, conducted over the telephone due to the pandemic restrictions, gave Laura her first introduction to marketing, focusing particularly on building up a customer base through local engagement, branding and customer awareness through flyer drops, local advertising and a presence on social media.
“Clare also directed us to Cywain, where we have built up excellent relationships with Lowri Jones, our local development manager, together with various sector-specific mentors on both financial and business planning and we’ve also received more in-depth guidance on the marketing elements.
Lowri also alerted the Jones family to the application window for a local council grant which was available at that time – ‘we applied in the nick of time’ – and signposted the family to Food Centre Wales at Horeb, who provide accredited training on many of the critical topics food producers need including technical skills and food safety qualifications.
“Although all our meetings had to be online or over the phone because of the pandemic, we’ve learned a huge amount and found the guidance and support from both Farming Connect and Cywain invaluable.
So, what next for the entrepreneurial Laura who firmly believes that women are often the driving force behind countlesss diversification initiatives. Describing herself as an advocate of ‘girl power’, she’s keen for more women have the confidence to ‘think outside the box’, to create sustainable new streams of income and she’s enjoying seeing her family’s milk-vending enterprise venture grow.
“Until our children are a bit older and I learn how to tow the trailer myself, I’m still very glad of the support of the men, because it’s a big commitment taking it to various locations by around 7.30am every morning, replenishing the milk if we need to and then collecting it about 7pm in the evenings.”
Laura says that at Llanfair Fach, it’s Dafydd and Guto who are hands-on with the farm, the 400 cows and the twice-daily milking routine, so the enterprise will always be very much ‘all hands on deck’.
“By working as a team, we each bring our own strengths to this business, and so far, we’re all very happy with the results,” says Laura.
Cywain’s online map enables you to instantly identify local food and drink producers in Wales. Visit menterabusnes.cymru / cywain / en /our-producers/
Changes to bus services in Ceredigion confirmed by local authority
THERE will be changes to local bus services in Ceredigion from Tuesday 3 January 2023.
The tenders received as part of a procurement process for operating several services have shown significant cost increases. This has resulted in substantial increases in subsidy levels being requested at a time when public finances are under tremendous pressure. The higher costs are largely reflective of particular challenges affecting the bus industry currently which includes considerable increased operating costs, lack of qualified and available drivers, uncertainty around future funding mechanisms as well as declining passenger numbers and changing travel behaviours.
Bus passenger numbers have been in decline across Wales and essentially halved in the period between 1982, where there were 181 million passenger journeys and 2019/20 where there were 91 million passenger journeys. This has been severely compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a drop to 26 million passenger journeys in 2020/21, that has further impacted on the viability of local bus services.
The 22T (Aberystwyth-Devil’s Bridge), 27T (Penrhyncoch-Penbontrhydybeddau) and T29 (Tregaron Circular) demand responsive services will stop at the end of December 2022. This is due to the significant costs associated with providing them and the very low level of usage, which equate to unviable levels of public subsidy per passenger journey.
There will be changes to the timetables on the 525 (Aberystwyth-Ponterwyd), 526 (Aberystwyth-Penrhyncoch) and 585 (Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter) services. The timetables for these services, subject to submission by the operators and approval by the Traffic Commissioner, are attached. These timetables are based on proposals provided by the local bus operators and reflect what is operationally deliverable with the resources available, in terms of buses and drivers, at this time.
The T21 (Aberystwyth-Llanafan-Tregaron) and 552 Cardi Bach (New Quay-Cardigan) services will continue as currently.
All these contracts have been awarded on a 6 month basis to allow for a wider review.
Councillor Keith Henson, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management said: “I would like to thank the local bus companies for their ongoing engagement in what is very challenging operating environment. We continue to work with them and in partnership with the other key stakeholders including the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales, seeking possible solutions and a way forward. Bus services and networks are dynamic and subject to change. Further changes are likely as the reality is that, in addition to the sparsity of resources, the amount of subsidy now required to provide the services is unaffordable, unjustifiable and unsustainable in the current financial climate.”
New hotel is to open in former warehouse in Cardigan
FFOREST, the outdoor lifestyle pioneer and staycation retreat favourite, has said that it will open its first hotel across two Grade II listed former warehouses this August. Alive with historical treasures, the hotel is themed around Cardigan’s maritime past and the local legend of the brig, Albion, which sailed 180 passengers from Cardigan to Canada in 1819. The hotel will provide a permanent legacy of that voyage and the spirit and endeavor of those aboard.
Located in West Wales, in the increasingly popular town of choice for creatives and laid-back living – Cardigan – The Albion sits directly on the River Teifi waterfront. In this first phase of opening, there will be 12 double bedrooms (en-suites, no family rooms) in the ‘Bridge’ warehouse with 11 further rooms and family suites available in the second Granary warehouse building next spring 2023. The 12 rooms have been designed around the existing historic features of the building, all restored to full heritage standards with views over the river from all rooms. Each room will honour those original emigrants and take its name from a log of the original settlers in New Brunswick.
Interiors are designed around the theme of ships cabins, but much more luxurious than the conditions that the Albion voyagers would have experienced two centuries ago. The cabins are lined entirely in wood panelling and this, together with most furnishings, has been repurposed and fashioned from reclaimed timber in fforest’s own workshops.
All rooms are designed individually and feature Welsh wool blankets, cushions and bedhead covers made from 100% pure new wool, woven just upstream from the Albion at an old mill, ‘Melin Teifi’. The mill used to be powered by the same waters that run into the river Teifi, and past the Albion before heading out to the sea. The textile motifs are based on traditional designs, but bespoke to fforest, designs perfected over 15 years with local craft legends. The bedding is certified British wool Duvets sourced from Devon – Devon Duvets – the first bedding company in the UK to achieve accreditation from British Wool. The wool blankets, textiles, socks, knitwear and enamel tableware in rooms are all also available to purchase.
Albion’s reception welcomes guests with a lounge area featuring relaxed seating and ‘The Galley’ cocktail bar, which will be open to the public and will have an extensive slate flagged riverside courtyard. The first floor has a guests only lounge/workroom which will also serve breakfasts prior to the restaurant opening later in the year. Yr Odyn restaurant (The Kiln in English), named after the remnants of the Lime Kilns forming part of the wharf complex, will open in the autumn of 2022 and will serve the best of local and seasonal cuisine, including meat from animals reared at fforest farm, with an emphasis on cooking over fire and influences from Scandinavia and Japan. Announcement on head chef to follow.
Other features to come will include an outdoor sauna and onsen (Japanese inspired bathing facility which fforest farm is known for) in a private elevated woodland glade housed discreetly behind the hotel. This is planned to open in December 2022. The amenities partner for the hotel is cult luxury skincare brand Aesop, featuring their recycled bottles and range of products for hair and body care plus fragrances to scent the communal spaces. Uniforms for the staff have been designed in collaboration with Neem, a climate conscious brand producing workwear shirts made from recycled shirts. Guests can walk directly into town over the bridge or along the river straight into the wildlife reserve and even up to fforest farm.
The design of The Albion has been meticulously planned to retain as much of the original buildings as possible, leaving parts raw to tell their own story. A highlight is the historic graffiti etched into the original limewash walls of the third floor – pencil sketches depicting tall ships, signatures, calculations for rope and sail cloth – dating back to the second half of the 19th Century.
The interior design of each room has the essence of a captain’s cabin: reclaimed wood lines the walls, whilst 150 year old beams make up the flooring. The furniture has been custom-made using Welsh-grown cedar and beeswaxed cement boards, complete with luxurious king size beds and hand-picked reclaimed fixtures.
James Lynch, founder of fforest and chief designer for The Albion said: “This has been a real pasison project of mine over the pandemic. With funding from the Development Bank of Wales, the ambition was to restore the existing building; to emphasise its heritage qualities, its original and unique features, then design and craft spaces within the open floors that would embrace and complement those qualities. To fold rooms into the shell created, that deliver on comfort and beauty as standard, but make every stay a special experience of its own. Contemporary services, comfort and style with the particular qualities of these heritage buildings: historic, high quality, unique; the essence of place, and of history, embedded in the fabric. We have a mantra at fforest for the accommodation and experience we provide: ‘Warmth, Craft and Comfort’. To the Albion we can add ‘Heritage’.”
Steffan Walker, General Manager of The Albion, added: “As a local to Cardiganshire, I am thrilled to be opening a world-class venue on my doorstep and to encourage more visitors to beautiful West Wales. I look forward to welcoming our guests from near and afar this summer.”
Richard Easton of the Development Bank of Wales said: “Working with our colleagues in Welsh Government, we are working hard to fund projects that help to boost our vital tourism and hospitality sectors in Wales. Our continued support for James and the wider team at fforest is a reflection of our belief in their business and the opportunities that they are bringing to Cardigan. Their creativity combined with business acumen means that they have made a long-lasting impact in the local community, creating much needed jobs and putting Cardigan firmly on the map.”
fforest is a family-run business, conceived by husband and wife who had a lifetime of creativity in Shoreditch before making the move to West Wales in 2003 – James Lynch and Sian Tucker. They run the three fforest locations across Cardigan – fforest Farm (200-acres with 8 accommodation options), fforest Coast and, in town, apartments and culinary venues such as Pizzatipi. Started in 2004, with help from their four sons, guests of fforest have always been encouraged to be a part of the family and visit any and all of the spaces. The Albion is the next iteration of this and will offer a more refined experience to guests whilst maintaining the down-to-earth and simplistic luxury that fforest embodies.
Community groups receive a share of cash from Ogi’s community fund ‘Cefnogi’
COMMUNITY groups across Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan have each received a cash injection, thanks to Ogi’s new ‘Cefnogi’ local support fund.
Wales’s homegrown internet company, Ogi has given over £4,000 so far to community groups in Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan, to date, with everything from community gardens to coffee mornings being supported by the broadband provider’s micro-fund.
Building on the company’s sponsorship of local grassroots activities at Haverfordwest AFC, Llantwit Major RFC and Portskewett and Sudbrook FC, the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund offers small, local groups a cash injection to support activities that directly benefit their communities.
Speaking about the fund, Head of Brand and Engagement, Sarah Vining, said: “Investing in our communities is an important part of our plan to bring full fibre connectivity to towns and villages across south Wales.
“This initiative, bringing small, but no less vital, cash injections to thriving local community groups is our way of giving back to those that are providing much needed support locally.”
The fund, set up by the regional Community Liaison team, offers grants of around £250 to local grassroots groups in the broadband providers roll our areas.
Community Liaison Officer, Martin Jones, one of the team who originally came up with the idea for the fund, said: “I’m thrilled to see so many groups being supported by the ‘Cefnogi’ fund.
“Community really is at the heart of all we do here at Ogi, and giving back through our micro-fund is making a real difference to the local groups we support.”
Ogi’s support extends to volunteering opportunities too, with teams across the businesses having supported the clearing of residents gardens, hosting coffee mornings and redeveloping community spaces.
For more information on the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund visit www.ogi.wales/support.
The latest round of the fund is accepting applications until the end of October 2022.
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