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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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Businesses will soon be able to access funding from the Welsh Government

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BUSINESSES in Pembrokeshire which have been impacted by the move to Alert Level 2 Covid-19 measures in Wales will soon be able to register or apply for Welsh Government funding.

The First Minister announced a £120m package of support for nightclubs, events, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and their supply chains, impacted by the move to Alert Level 2.

An eligibility checker for businesses has now gone live.

Businesses are urged to check their eligibility at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport?_ga=2.234856926.1944247233.1641292011-360841121.1641292011

The above link also features further information and a series of FAQs about the latest round of support.

The funding will take the form of three elements.

Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked funding of up to £6,000.

Retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business who pay Non Domestic Rates will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.

Businesses will need to re-register their details with Pembrokeshire County Council through an online process in order to receive their payments.

The Council will also deliver a discretionary fund to support sole traders, freelancers and businesses who don’t pay rates, with funding of £500 – £2000.

The Local Authority discretionary fund will be via a short application process with sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers able to apply for £500 and businesses that employ people but do not pay business rates will be able to apply for £2,000.

Pembrokeshire County Council plans to open the schemes on Monday 10th January for the NDR related fund and Monday 17th January for the Discretionary fund.

See notes below for further information on the way the NDR linked grant and discretionary fund will be allocated.

The third element of the funding is a reopening of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund (ERF).

On top of NDR based funding, this will see funds of up to £25,000 made available for severely impacted hospitality and leisure businesses – and their supply chains.

As with previous ERF rounds, this will support businesses who have seen a reduction in their turnover of more than 60%.

Details of the application and registration process will be published on the Authority’s Business Advice and Support pages: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/business-advice-and-support

The funding package is designed to support businesses impacted by the spread of Omicron through the period 13 December 2021 to 14 February 2022.

Please note that as a result of the new emergency support packages, the Welsh Government is withdrawing its £35m Business Support Fund, announced in November, in order to process emergency payments as soon as possible.

Any expressions of interest received will be notified of this directly.

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£120m financial support for businesses in Wales impacted by Omicron

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BUSINESSES in Wales impacted by the rapid spread of the Omicron virus will be eligible for emergency financial support under a new Welsh Government support package.

The Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, has announced the details of the £120m funding which will be available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business and their supply chains affected by the move to alert level two, as announced by the First Minister on Wednesday 22 December.

Under the latest package, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism business who pay Non Domestic Rates will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value. Businesses will need to re-register their details, through a quick and easy online process, with Pembrokeshire County Council in order to receive their payments.

Registration will open via local authority website from the week commencing January 10, 2022

The Welsh Government has decided to extend this support to non-essential retail so that smaller shops, and Travel Agents will be supported and our high streets can continue to thrive. In England, support is not available to non-essential retail.

In addition, impacted hospitality and leisure businesses and their supply chains will be able to apply for top up funding from a new Economic Resilience Fund (ERF). Eligible businesses can apply for grants of between £2,500k – £25,000, with grants dependent on their size and number of employees. The application window for ERF will open in week commencing 17th January 2022 with payments starting to reach businesses within days.

Local Authorities will also administer a Discretionary fund for business and sole traders who do not pay rates. The fund will provide £500 to sole trader and freelancers and £2,000 to employing businesses in impacted sectors.  Further details to follow on business.wales.

An eligibility checker which will help businesses to gauge how much they can expect to receive under the new support package will be available on the Business Wales website by the start of 2022.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “We fully understand the continued challenges faced by businesses, however we are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious omicron variant is headed our way, this means taking early action to try and control its spread – and limit the impact on Welsh businesses.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve provided over £2.2bn of support to businesses throughout Wales to help them manage their way through difficult circumstances.

“We will continue to monitor the impact of the spread of Omicron on businesses in Wales, and will consider whether additional emergency funding is needed in the new year.”

Business.Wales will be updated with details, frequently asked question and support guidance.

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Business

Seeking advisors from Ceredigion Businesses – Your chance to get involved with the Mid Wales Growth Deal

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Growing Mid Wales logo

ARE you a strategic business leader in Ceredigion and are you passionate and committed to the interests of Mid Wales? If so, you are the business leader we are looking for!

The Growing Mid Wales Board is setting up an independent body, the Economic Advisory Group, to help advise on the Mid Wales Growth Deal Portfolio of programmes and projects – to ensure it delivers tangible outcomes for our economy.

The new advisory group will provide business sector experience and knowledge to help assess the various proposals as they move through to the next stages of development.

We’re looking for Industry Leaders from all sectors who are able to demonstrate strategic thinking and have significant direct business leadership experience to help advise the direction of the strategic Portfolio.

For a conversation about the opportunity, email Paul Griffiths, Growth Deal Adviser: paul.griffiths2@powys.gov.uk.

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