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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/

Business

Llandeilo going for Fair Trade Status

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A NEW steering group has formed in Llandeilo to achieve Fair Trade status for the town.

“Many of our local shops and venues already stock or serve Fair Trade products and I believe Llandeilo deserves to be officially recognised for this,” says co-founder town councillor Christoph Fischer.

“It’s fantastic to see so many businesses and stakeholders committed to Fair Trade in Llandeilo,” says Candace Browne of Y Pantri Glas, Llandeilo’s Zero Waste and Natural Foods store. “However, for me Fair Trade extends beyond insuring workers growing imported exotic produce like bananas and chocolate are treated fairly but also to trading fairly with our local producers and sourcing good food locally. As Chair of Slow Food Cymru, Slow Food Town status with a shared vision of “Good Fair Food for All” would also be great for businesses to work towards for our community.”

The group, which has representatives of several businesses and interested individuals, are currently mapping all products that local shops, schools, groups and organisations offer and are lobbying the town council and other bodies to get behind the movement by declaring their own commitment to Fair Trade.

“As town councillor and as individual I feel this initiative fits perfectly well with the trend in town for fair trade,” says Fischer. “As Member Pioneer for the Llandeilo Coop part of my role is to initiate projects like this and bring all parts of the community together. We already had positive replies from Café 139, The Lighthouse, Heavenly, Ikigai, CK’s, Crown Stores, Umami and Llandeilo Primary.”

If you and your organisation want to commit to Fair Trade or are stocking Fair Trade products, please contact ChristophFFischer@googlemail.com

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Council determined to close Aberystwyth’s window of waste

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ABERYSTWYTH town centre is provided with regular and reliable waste collection services. Unfortunately, some localised, seasonal issues continue to arise. One of the solutions to this is to close the Window of Waste!

The window of waste is the time between when waste is presented for collection and when it is actually collected. The longer the window of waste is open the more issues and problems that occur which includes the waste being ravaged by seagulls, other animals as well as the elements. This causes the problems that are experienced in some town centre locations mostly on and around waste collection days.

The County Council has been very proactive in Aberystwyth over recent years in introducing interventions and changes to waste collection arrangements with a view of addressing or improving long standing issues. These are currently being reviewed and include but are not limited to:

·         Additional early waste collections in the town centre to collect waste that has been presented too early.

·         Provision of wheelie bins on North Parade and heavy duty sacks at various streets to contain waste between the time it is presented and collected

·         Provision of free caddies and caddy liners for food waste and boxes for glass

·         Localised information provision

·         Closer working between Waste Collection and Street Cleaning teams

·         Closer monitoring

·         Ongoing liaison with residents and landlords

As part of Caru Ceredigion and Caru Aber all residents are encouraged to play their part in being part of the solution rather than the cause of the problem. This means working with us to ensure that:

·         Aber’s streets are kept clean and attractive at all times

·         Aber’s waste is dealt with in the most efficient way possible from a cost and environmental perspective

·         Aber remains a fantastic place to live and visit

·         Aber maintains the superb positive profile and image it deserves

We are asking all residents to help us close the window of waste by presenting the Right Waste in the Right Way and on the Right Day:

·         Right Waste: making full and proper use of the services provided for recycling and food waste which are collected every week

·         Right Way: presenting the waste in suitable containers, which includes the food caddies and glass boxes provided by the Council.  A range of bins from wheelie bins to traditional bins are available from local outlets or online to store and present waste.

·         Right Day: waste should only be presented for collection by 08:00 on the day of collection.

Businesses are reminded that they have a legal responsibility to have trade waste arrangements in place for all the waste their business produces

For the size and nature of the town, Aberystwyth is a clean town, which contributes to its overall attractiveness as a fantastic place to live and visit. If this were not the case then so many local people and visitors would not hold it in such high regard.  

For more information regarding Ceredigion County Council’s waste collection services, including a postcode finder, please visit www.ceredigion.gov.uk.

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Lidl branded best value as expanded store opens in Aberystwyth

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Lidl has been revealed as the cheapest supermarket in May, according to the latest monthly analysis from Which?.

Which? compared prices for a trolley of 20 items every day throughout May and found that on average, shoppers would have paid £22.66 at Lidl, beating the big four and Aldi to the accolade. Products checked included own-label products such as tomatoes and chicken drumsticks and branded goods such as Nescafé coffee, to see how UK supermarkets compared. The announcement recognises Lidl’s continued commitment to offering customers top quality products at great value prices as the retailer expands further into the future. Earlier this year, Which? named Lidl as the Cheapest Supermarket 2020, demonstrating that Lidl continues to offer UK shoppers consistently unbeatable prices.

The news comes as the supermarket expanded its operation in Aberystyth.

This pic of the new store was taken by Rose Voon.

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