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Partnership approach pays off for Ceredigion family’s milk vending project

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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/

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Exam Success for Ashmole & Co Accountants

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Gwenllian Phillips

ASHMOLE & Co are delighted to announce that Gwenllian Phillips, in the Cardigan office, has completed her studies and passed all her exams to become a qualified member of the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

Gwenllian, who is from Cardigan, joined the Ashmole & Co team as a Trainee Accountant in August 2020, after graduating from Aberystwyth University with a First in Accounting and Finance.

Karl Wilcox, Partner in Ashmole & Co’s Cardigan office said, “We are all so proud of Gwenllian and her fantastic achievements. She has become an integral part of our team in the Cardigan office. 

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to watch her going from strength to strength. It is important as a profession that we help to train the next generation of accountants. Qualified staff members are the lifeblood for the future success of our firm.”

Gwenllian’s day to day responsibilities include completing VAT returns, assisting in audit work and preparing end of year accounts for local sole traders, partnerships and limited companies.

Gwenllian said, “I am grateful to Ashmole and Co for being so supportive since I started and helping me gain my qualifications. I am enjoying working with local businesses and knowing that I am helping them with their needs. There has been a lot to learn and remember with every set of accounts being different but that means that every day is different which makes the role really interesting.”        

Gwenllian lives in Cardigan and in her spare time enjoys going to yoga classes, reading and walking in the countryside around Ceredigion.

If you would like to contact Ashmole & Co’s Cardigan office in Manchester House on Grosvenor Hill, please telephone: 01239 612162 or email: cardigan@ashmole.co.uk

Ashmole & Co are one of the largest chartered certified accountants in Wales. The rapidly expanding and modern firm often has job opportunities for enthusiastic individuals both qualified and non-qualified within the organisation. 

If you feel you have the qualities to be part of the team at Ashmole & Co, please email, with your CV attached, to AshmoleHR@ashmole.co.uk. 

Alternatively, apply for a specific vacancy listed on the website: www.ashmole.co.uk

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Lead distiller named Foundation Apprentice of Year at company’s awards

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Ffion Lewis receives the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award from Arwyn Watkins, OBE, managing director of Cambrian Training Company.

FFION LEWIS has been promoted to lead distiller at award-winning In the Welsh Wind Distillery, based at Tanygroes, near Cardigan, after completing a Foundation Apprenticeship in Brewing.

Now the 22-year-old’s learning journey has been rewarded with the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award at the annual Apprenticeship, Employment and Skills Awards held by Cambrian Training Company, one of Wales’ leading work-based learning providers.

There was a double celebration for In the Welsh Wind which also won the Small Employer of the Year award.

Ffion joined In the Welsh Wind as an apprentice distiller after returning home to Mid Wales from New Zealand where she lived for three years and has played a key role in the development of whiskey making at the distillery

With a background in laboratory work, the job was perfect for her. Having now progressed to a leadership qualification with Chwarae Teg Women’s Career Development Programme, Ffion says the Foundation Apprenticeship improved her confidence, self-esteem and employability.

Ffion, who is now supporting other apprentices within the business, said: “It means a lot to win this award. I think apprenticeships are really important. I had previously worked in a microbiology lab in New Zealand and didn’t have any experience in distilling before doing my apprenticeship.

“I was really happy to find a job in a job at In the Welsh Wind when I returned to West Wales.”

Recognising employers and learners who have excelled in apprenticeship, skills and employment training programmes delivered by Cambrian Training Company, the awards were held at The Metropole Hotel & Spa, Llandrindod Wells.

The other Foundation Apprentice of the Year finalist was Ryan Harding, 26, Kepak, Merthyr Tydfil who lives in Blaenavon.

With offices in Welshpool, Holyhead, Colwyn Bay, Llanelli and Llanelwedd, Cambrian Training Company delivers work-based apprenticeships across Wales.

Arwyn Watkins, OBE, the company’s managing director, congratulated Hannah and all the award winners and finalists for their achievement despite the challenging disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past two years.

“These awards showcase the dedication and commitment by individuals and companies to the apprenticeship programme here in Wales,” he added. “Ffion has demonstrated what can be achieved in career progression through apprenticeships.”

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

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Supporting Ceredigion’s small businesses at the Eisteddfod

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THE NATIONAL EISTEDDFOD OF WALES visiting Ceredigion will be an excellent opportunity to promote local businesses and boost the local economy.

In addition to the surge in visitors to the county, a number of Ceredigion businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity to sell their products at trade stands at the Eisteddfod.

Ceredigion County Council supports local/small businesses, and we are pleased that some have accepted the invitation to showcase their products in wooden huts at Pentre’ Ceredigion’s stand on the Maes.

We welcome the opportunity to show that Ceredigion is a good place to do business, and it will be an opportunity for the businesses to promote and sell their products.

Around 15 companies from Ceredigion will take advantage of the wooden huts during the week. These include Pethau Melys, Galeri Gwyn, Bay Coffee Roasters, CreatEmAber, Yoga Essentials, Canfas, Tonnau Surf, U Melt Me, Gwella, L P-D, Atebol, Coffi & Bara, In the Welsh Wind, Recover Eden, and Aberdabbadoo.

There will also be an opportunity for people to learn more about food and drink companies in the county during the daily cooking demonstrations at 11:30am in Pentre’ Ceredigion. Pop by for a treat for your tastebuds.

One local company who has taken advantage of this is the craft business L P-D. Lowri Pugh-Davies from Llangybi said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for my small business. I’m extremely grateful for the privilege and the chance to trade along with other businesses from Ceredigion, and only a stone throws away from my home. The experience will be even more special for me as this will be the first Eisteddfod where I’ll be taking a stand, and the biggest event for my small business. Thank you very much for the invaluable opportunity.”

Why not visit other areas in Ceredigion during the Eisteddfod period. You can get a glimpse of what the county has to offer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBFvGg23UqA

Councillor Clive Davies, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for the Economy and Regeneration, said: “Ceredigion businesses have so much to offer and the National Eisteddfod’s visit to the county is a truly fantastic opportunity to celebrate and promote that. It will be lovely to see visitors venturing to every part of Ceredigion to get a taste and support local businesses, as well as finding interesting companies on the Maes itself. Ceredigion County Council is proud to support small businesses too by offering slots in the wooden trading huts during the week. Remember to drop by.”

You can see Pentre’ Ceredigion’s full timetable on our website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/eisteddfod

You can also download the Eisteddfod app and find more Information on the Eisteddfod’s website, www.eisteddfod.cymru, and follow us on social media:

Facebook: @CeredigionCountyCouncil

Twitter: @CeredigionCC

Instagram: @CaruCeredigion

Remember to share your photos too by using the hashtags #Steddfod2022 and #EisteddfodCeredigion.

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