At the end of June the Beckett Group was welcomed to a hot, dry West Wales by Jamie McCoy and Deian Evans. Accommodation was a first - the Group was booked into a beautiful, isolated glamping site and jeans and shorts were the order of the weekend. The programme combined some stunning local examples of entrepreneurship with an introduction to farming in the area.
Stunning modern entrepreneurship was demonstrated in the first visit to the Chuckling Goat enterprise www.chucklinggoat.co.uk. It was started by an American lady married to a Welsh goat farmer but her husband developed health issues. She experimented on her kitchen table by fermenting pasteurised goats’ milk with live kefir grains. Her husband’s health improved dramatically and a new mail order business was born. In 4 years it has expanded 6,000%. The product is made on site and milk from up to 4,000 goats is bought in to supplement that of the 26 strong flock maintained on their own small farm. Sales are generated via Facebook and telesales in the farm office which housed 8 computers and employs a website developer 4 days a week. The product helps with eczema and digestive products and is aimed particularly at 18-20 year olds. As one Scholar commented, the size of the farm is irrelevant to the size of a business.
A local farm boy who has built up a staggering business was Brian Jones, owner and founder of what is now CH Foods: www.castellhowellfoods.co.uk. Kindly, down-to-earth and full of common sense, it was difficult to take in the scale of his enterprise, or the journey he has made from farm to a food distribution business comprising 5 huge depots and servicing the length and breadth of Wales, the Welsh borders and the West Country. One of the core values is supplying and promoting regional food.
Another local farm boy who’d made it breathtakingly good was Kevin Green NSch who had flown in especially from Spain to give an after-lunch talk to the Beckett Group. His property portfolio in Wales is legendary, he trades extensively in gold and silver from a Singapore base, he runs courses on how to invest and make money plus what it takes to become successful in the business world. Infectiously enthusiastic, his Nuffield study had been to study the attitudes and personalities of high achievers. How could a scholarship have reaped a higher dividend?
Nuffield Scholar John Owen, is farm manager at the local Gelli Aur agricultural college (www.gelliaur.co.uk) which offers, among others, a one-day a week course running for 5 years and leading to a degree. John showed us the world-first technology being trialled in an attempt to de-water slurry and discharge water directly back into the watercourse.
But Welsh agriculture in general did not present nearly so happy a picture. It has big problems. Visits showed that beef farmers, no matter how technologically well they farm, were not making money. Sheep farming was little better. Dairying earns a crust but the big restriction here is a shortage of processors to buy the milk. In general the cost of inputs in West Wales is higher than average due to infrastructure issues.
Jamie had organised an absolutely splendid programme.