3 February 2022
Are you ready to broaden your horizons, and discover what you can learn from some of the UK’s top-performing rural businesses or organisations? Would you be happy to bring that new-found knowledge, technical ability and management expertise back to Wales and share what you’ve learnt with other farmers and foresters?
Farming Connect is now seeking applications for two of its most sought-after projects. The Management Exchange programme offers up to £2,500 of funding for registered individuals, while the Study Visit programme offers groups of registered individuals up to 50% of the total cost (up to a maximum of £3,000). Currently restricted to visits within Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of the Covid pandemic, all arrangements will be subject to the relevant government guidance at the time of the planned visits.
Both projects will provide successful applicants with the opportunity to visit ‘exemplar’ land-based businesses, which have implemented innovative or more efficient ways of working, with participants able to see or experience at first hand exactly what it takes to operate sustainable, resilient and profitable enterprises.
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
According to young farmer Will Sawday, an agriculture graduate from SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College, Edinburgh), who keeps 1,400 Romney ewes on the family hill farm near Hay on Wye, the opportunity to visit three ‘regenerative’ livestock farming systems in 2020/21 has been ‘transformational’:
“Being part of the Management Exchange programme enabled me to learn from other successful farm businesses, giving me the confidence to put all the theory I’ve learned into practice.
“Observing how other farmers were utilising nature’s own tools for better financial, social and environmental outcomes inspired me to change numerous systems at home.”
Will visited farm enterprises in Scotland, Cumbria and one in Ross on Wye. He says he was most encouraged by the number of relatively small-scale, low-risk ‘regenerative’ projects that didn’t involve taking big financial risks, yet resulted in significant benefits.
Neil Davies, a beef and sheep farmer from Llangammarch Wells, who is also a Farming Connect demonstration site farmer, joined eight young farmers who visited a varied range of businesses in 2021 as part of a four-day study visit to Scotland.
Neil says he started planning a new rotational grazing strategy as soon as he returned home! A year earlier, he had been a Management Exchange participant, which resulted in him changing all the livestock housing from straw to slatted flooring.
“Both these opportunities have been a massive game changer for our business, so for anyone wanting to improve their current system or diversify, this is the best place to start – it’s far cheaper to learn from others than pay for your own mistakes!
“Many members of our study visit group were already planning or starting up new diversified ventures, but this visit gave us a unique opportunity to observe, providing insight into both the rewards and risks of trying new or different ways of working, which resulted in some of us re-evaluating our strategy.”
Eirwen Williams, director of rural programmes with Menter a Busnes, emphasises the value of visiting and learning from other businesses:
“Whether like Will, you apply for the Management Exchange programme as an individual, or get together with like-minded friends or neighbours who can submit a group application for a study visit, Farming Connect will do all it can to help you work out an itinerary that is going to help you achieve all your goals.
“Previous Management Exchange and study visits have proved hugely beneficial to so many individuals, supporting visits to livestock, horticulture and woodland businesses, as well as diversified ventures such as distilleries, farm shops, food processing and tourism enterprises.
“All we ask in return is that you agree to keep a record of your findings, which Farming Connect will share with the wider industry on your return,” said Mrs Williams.
This year’s study visit programme application window is open now and closes on 31 May 2022. The Management Exchange 2022 programme application window will be open from Tuesday 1 February until Monday 28 February 2022.
For further information on terms and conditions and to download an application form, click here. Alternatively, contact your local Farming Connect development officer.