21 November 2023
It may only be one acre of land but for craft brewer and cider maker Adrián Morales Maillo the field he is producing fruit in through a joint venture agreement is integral to his new business.
The land is part of a 25-hectare farm at Wyecliff on the outskirts of Hay-on-Wye.
It had been rented out for sheep grazing but the landowner saw its potential to be used differently.
This is where Farming Connect’s Start to Farm initiative stepped in.
Start to Farm is designed to pair up young entrants looking for land and landowners seeking someone to collaborate with.
The opportunity was promoted by Farming Connect and potential candidates also sought through its Start to Farm ‘seekers’ list, a register of people seeking land.
Some of those were keen to use the land for growing vegetables on a commercial scale but the landowner didn’t think the site was well placed for the wholesale marketing of that produce and that investment in infrastructure would be required.
It was Adrián’s proposal to grow organic soft fruit to use within his new brewing and cider making business, Sobremesa Drinks, they saw as being the perfect match.
“For a business operating from the site to have legs it needed to be innovative and niche and Adrián plan had both of those,’’ says Eiry Williams, Farming Connect’s succession facilitator.
Adrián, a native of Spain, had been working as a head brewer between Spain and the UK, where his partner, Alys Williams, a native of Newport, Gwent, is a teacher.
They were looking for an opportunity to relocate to a rural area and to establish a craft drinks business following the principles of circular economy.
Farming Connect helped to facilitate the agreement, including an initial consultation with a solicitor at Agri Advisor, and the contract - an annual cropping licence with the option to renew - was signed in February 2021.
Soil testing was also funded by Farming Connect and that in itself led to further opportunities for Adrián as, to qualify for 100% funding, the work had to be undertaken as part of a group.
Adrián had been looking for a building to use as a ferment and tap room and one of the other two farmers in the group was able to provide that opportunity.
Adrián secured planning permission for a conversion and now runs his business from there.
The berries he grows at the farm, including blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, raspberries and loganberries, which in 2023 produced 180kg of fruit, are used to flavour the beer and cider produced there.
Not only did Start to Farm help with the legal and business element of the agreement but provided practical advice too, with input from Chris Creed, a specialist in crop production, and Cate Barrow, of ADAS, a business specialist who has undertaken many joint venture projects across Wales.
The landowners have also been able to help Adrián to build a business network through their contacts, introducing him to people who have used his products and services.
Both Adrián and his new business partner agree that Start to Farm played a key role in helping the joint venture come to fruition.
For Adrián, becoming a grower and a brewer is a dream come true. “Farming Connect has played a key role in making it happen,’’ he says.