Farming Connect Study Visit - RegenAg Wales
Funded through the Knowledge Transfer, Innovation and Advisory Service programme under the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020
30 July – 7 August 2022
This course was an opportunity to attend a farm design and business planning workshop set on a productive, successful and regenerative small farm in N Wales: Henbant. The experience of living and working at the farm, as well as gaining practical skills and learning from experienced farmers, such as Matt Swarbrick and Richard Perkins, was invaluable.
Tash attended, as she bought a 70-acre farm in Carmarthenshire last year, and wanted to access some training and gain practical skills around how to run a small productive farm and spend time looking at different enterprises, such as broilers, layers, beef and the market garden.
Al is looking to buy a small farm in Powys, and was also interested in gaining hands-on experience with livestock, including learning how to process broilers.
Dylan, who owns a 15-acre smallholding and a separate 25-acre ‘farm’ on the Llŷn Peninsula, wanted to learn more about growing healthy and nutrient-dense food in the context of a market garden – including regenerative livestock practices and enterprises which could be accommodated at the farm in future.
Dylan has recently submitted a planning application for the creation of a Pick Your Own Fruit farm on his smallholding, including an associated market garden, with the aim of offering high-quality and organic produce to the local community, whilst also allowing other local farms/producers to sell their products at the site (subject to being organic/regenerative). The aim was to be a catalyst within the local area by promoting a more localised food system and to promote regenerative farming practices.
Whilst initially Dylan wishes to concentrate on the establishment of the Pick Your Own and market garden, it is the eventual aim that the farm will host regenerative livestock-based enterprises (on a relatively small acreage) – which, when combined with the fruit and vegetables, will be capable of providing a complete diet to the local community, whilst also being able to demonstrate regenerative practices to interested landowners and farmers.
2.1 On the first day, a thorough farm tour was very interesting, and we gained an overview of all the different enterprises at the farm, including agro-forestry, tourism, broilers, layers, pigs, beef and the market garden.
2.2 On the second day, we practised mapping our sites, both in the classroom and in the field, using tools such as the bunyip.
2.3 On the third day, we looked at various water systems, how to move water around and collect and store rainwater, and how to water a market garden and other areas through gravity-fed systems.
2.4 On the fourth day, we learned about agro-forestry design, as well as how to run and propagate a tree nursery
2.5 On the fifth day, we learned about the pasture and health of the soil and the ruminants. We looked at steps Matt has taken to improve soil and pasture and the role tree lanes can have in this.
2.6 On the sixth day, we spent the day in the market garden, looking at growing techniques, propagation, irrigation, tools, health and safety.
2.7 On the seventh day, we learned about soil health, and looked at the composting done at Henbant and the compost teas used, as well as bio-fertiliser and biochar, and reviewed our learning and understanding to date.
2.8 On the eighth day, we learned about sales and marketing the enterprises at Henbant and how the veg box scheme is marketed and has grown.
On the final day, we reviewed farm designs from various attendees, taking into account everything we had learned and practised in the week.
3 Next Steps
We have established a WhatsApp group for Regen Ag in Wales, which will be used to share what we have learned and promote discussion and sharing of ideas. We plan to have a Zoom meeting every couple of months that any members of the group can attend, to review plans and discuss ideas. One point from the course will be covered at each meeting.
Tash is planning to review plans and budgets for turkey production, beef production and layers, as well as tourism. She will also review soil fertility to establish a baseline, before starting holistic planned grazing with the cattle.
Al and her partner are creating a business plan for their farm enterprise prior to setting up a non-profit to manage the public area of the land. Al and her partner intend to buy land in order to run a small mixed farming enterprise for high-quality meats and other produce straight to organic shops and restaurants. The land is to be run as a living history site, with rare breeds where Al will run sessions for people with mental health needs.
Dylan is reviewing plans and budgets for a market garden and sheep.