08 March 2024

From spawning new ideas for her own flower and floristry business to establishing a valuable network of contacts, young farmer Ellen Firth has given Farming Connect’s Junior Academy a five-star review, an experience which had “surpassed every expectation’’.

At just 20, Ellen has her own flower farming and floristry enterprise, which she runs alongside managing her family’s pedigree flock of Black Welsh Mountain sheep.

She was one of 12 young people to secure a much sought after place in the 2023 Junior Academy. She applied in the hope of developing her knowledge of the farming industry and learning more about implementing sustainable, regenerative techniques within her own horticulture and sheep business.

That programme of activities, which included an overseas study visit to the Netherlands, has now drawn to a close, one that Ellen describes as “the most incredible experience.’’

“I have come away with a wealth of experiences and knowledge from seeing such a wide range of areas within the agriculture industry,’’ she says.

“No matter who we visited, I came away from every single one with something to implement within my own business, from valuable advice to future diversification ideas or further contacts and networking.”

“Everyone said it would be brilliant, but every trip has surpassed my expectations.’’

Ellen manages the Firth Flock and she’s established Firth Flock Flowers on nine acres of land near Ruthin, Denbighshire.

This combination creates a successful enterprise focused on sustainability and utilizing waste products.

Ellen’s business is demonstrating that it is possible to create a profitable enterprise on a small acreage.

Her introduction to agriculture didn’t come from a family link but from moving home to live next to a dairy farm when she was seven years old.

“Within a few days, I was helping to feed the calves and found my happy place,’’ she recalls.

That interest took her to paid roles on several farms, including cattle and sheep, stoking her ambition to establish her own flock. 

That opportunity came in 2019 when Ellen moved to Wales with her family to what she describes as “a property with land that needed a lot of love.’’

There, she established their pedigree Black Welsh Mountain flock, which she now breeds from, selling the progeny to breeders, supplying the surplus lamb to a luxury restaurant, and exhibiting prime stock at agricultural shows.

“I do as much as possible myself, such as shearing and trimming for shows, to limit the need and cost of getting other people in, giving me more independence and flexibility,’’ she explains.

She combines this with growing flowers and creating floral designs for weddings, funerals and events, alongside gift bouquets and supplying bunches of flowers to farm shops and village retailers.

Ellen also runs pick-your-own events and workshops, focusing on education and providing local flowers for local people.

“I grow 95% of the flowers I use in my designs, these are grown organically with manure from the sheep providing the nutrients and their wool used as mulch and pathways,’’ she says.

Pests are controlled through a combination of ducks, guinea fowl, companion planting and beneficial insects.

To improve her knowledge further, Ellen has been receiving mentoring from Flintshire horticulturist, Phil Handley, by accessing that support through the Farming Connect mentoring programme, and has also had free advice from Chris Creed, a specialist in crop production, provided through Farming Connect Horticulture Business Support.

Ellen has achieved all this while dealing with the challenges of autism and ADHD, a diagnosis she received when she was 13.

These additional challenges did not stop her from accessing the Junior Academy, she says.

“The support and understanding I have received from everyone from the moment I first applied has been amazing; without that extra support I would never have been able to access so many valuable experiences and gain so much knowledge to take forward into the future development of my business.’’

Involvement in the Academy has also instilled the importance of taking time away from the farm from time to time.

“It was the first time I had been away since moving to the farm five years ago,’’ she admits.

“I am not from a farming family, so it's not as easy to hand things over to someone else when I leave the farm, it takes some planning and organising, but after the Junior Academy experience it’s something I will definitely be prioritising in the future.’’ 

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