Two ambitious young farmers in North Wales are confident they face a bright future thanks to the foresight of a local landowner and a new share farming arrangement facilitated by Farming Connect’s Venture programme.
Venture provides a ‘matchmaking’ service and/or support for farmers wanting to scale down or exit the industry and farmers who are finding it hard to break into running their own business.
Well known Abergele farmer and landowner Harry Fetherstonhaugh is now in a very successful joint farming arrangement with Rhys Williams (39), a farmer’s son who is also a manager at Coleg Glynllifon and young shepherd Emyr Jones, son of a local North Wales farming family.
Mr. Fetherstonhaugh first entered the farming industry during the late seventies, as a tenant of Coed Coch, a 960 acre holding. As the owner, he steadily built up the farm business and also became a figurehead and rural leader in North Wales.
Mr. Fetherstonhaugh recognised that the enterprise had not been reaching its potential in recent years and knew that longer term, he risked having neither sufficient time nor energy to reverse its fortunes.
“Outputs were high. I needed two full time staff, plus two extra helpers during a lengthy indoor lambing period, as well as all the necessary infrastructure, machinery and vehicles you need to maintain a viable business. It was clearly time for a rethink on both grassland and stock management,” said Mr. Fetherstonhaugh.
A fortuitous meeting with a friend who was aware that Rhys Williams could well be interested in a share farming agreement proved to be the catalyst that subsequently led Mr Fetherstonhaugh and Rhys to seek support from Farming Connect. In due course they also involved a knowledgeable young local shepherd, Emyr Jones, who had impressed Rhys during his student days at Coleg Glynllifon. It was to lead to a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for both young farmers.
By applying as a group, the three farmers were eligible to apply for the fully funded, integrated package of mentoring, business support and specialist legal advice which was available to them through Farming Connect’s Venture programme.
Over a period of about 14 months, they received support and guidance from two Farming Connect approved advisers. Wendy Jenkins, a director of rural consultancy Cara Wales was responsible for producing a new business model and specialist rural solicitors Agri Advisor drew up the necessary legal agreements.
Mr. Fetherstonhaugh sold up his Texel flock in September 2016. Just one month later, their new trading company was set up.
“We have restocked with 2,300 New Zealand Romney ewes which have low labour requirements and are better suited to the low cost, grass based system we aim to employ," said Rhys who now manages the enterprise and deals with all administrative tasks while Emyr undertakes all the day to day shepherding tasks.
All the ewes lambed outside during a four week block in April. The first year's lambing percentage is below the initial target but Emyr believes that with selective breeding, the results will be improved upon in the future.
Mr. Fetherstonhaugh is delighted with the success of the new limited company which is used to structure the share farming arrangement in which he has a 50% share, Rhys has a 45% share, and Emyr a 5% share. The three shareholders meet monthly for a board meeting with a set agenda where decisions are jointly made and Rhys communicates directly with Emyr two or three times a week over the phone and shares information through interactive technology.
“Rhys and Emyr are extremely knowledgeable, they are very hard working and they are very enthusiastic about the future. I’m delighted to have given them a helping hand to get onto the farming ladder. If all goes to plan, I hope to replicate this share farming arrangement on other parcels of land, which will provide further opportunities for the next generation of farmers.”
To order a a copy of the new ‘Venture’ handbook which sets out all you need to know about joint ventures contact Einir Davies on 01970 636 297 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Farming Connect is also arranging a series of evening ‘Venture’ workshops this autumn. For dates and locations and to book your place, please click here.