Turning ideas into reality – Farming Connect’s Innovation & Diversification Wales event attracts a new generation of rural entrepreneurs and innovators

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Social media sensation, Tom Pemberton, had a rapt audience during his presentation at Farming Connect’s Innovation & Diversification event in Llanelwedd, when he told them that revenue resulting from his online presence had contributed towards the cost of a massive new barn!  

This fifth-generation young dairy farmer from Lancashire has become a tv personality, author and public speaker, having racked up millions of views and ‘likes’ across various online channels in the last decade. Tom explained that having the confidence to engage with the public, fame and fortune didn’t come ‘overnight’, but in just a few years and with the backing of his family, his obsession with ‘seeing results’ and sheer determination to succeed has got him where he is today. Obstacles such as an undiagnosed hearing issue as a baby, and then severe dyslexia, may have spurred on this astute young businessman, who modestly admits to being ‘okay with figures’, to his current role as one of the farming industry’s key influencers. 

“It’s all too easy for farming families to spend years discussing how they could, or should, do things differently, but unless they get ‘genuinely obsessed’ and put ideas into action, nothing will ever change.”

Tom was one of 21 speakers at the event, with topics ranging from milk vending machines to maximising income from your land, and from ‘no input’ dairy farming to putting a figure on carbon stocks. A packed programme of informative, lively presentations across three theatres, as well as the opportunity to attend a range of one-to-one ‘taster’ surgeries on a wide range of topics linked to innovation and diversification, provided just the right mix of information, guidance and networking opportunities for the hundreds of visitors who attended.

Eirwen Williams, director of rural programmes with Menter a Busnes, which, alongside Lantra Wales, delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, said that the day had been a tremendous success. 

“Everyone we spoke to was focused, armed with their timetable and keen to listen and learn from the wide mix of successful farming entrepreneurs, speakers and more than 70 exhibitors who willingly shared their experience and knowledge.  

Many also took advantage of the one-to-one surgeries available on the day to discuss their individual ideas or issues, but for anyone who may have further questions or queries following the event and would like further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact Farming Connect – we are always available to help,” said Mrs Williams.

Rachel Powell, who farms with her husband James and young family at Dolygarn, Llanbadarn Fynydd, said the day had exceeded her expectations. 

“Today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from, and the assurance that you’re putting animal health and protecting the environment at the forefront of everything you do."

All the speakers I heard said you’ve got to be passionate and focused about what you want to achieve, and that transparency is critical.

"This is how Welsh farmers will create sustainable businesses for future generations – what I learned at the event has inspired me to do even more,” said Mrs Powell. 

Two upland beef and sheep farmers from Tondu in Glamorgan, Tabitha Anthony and Emma Anthony, both had a ‘light bulb’ moment, saying they were going to spend more time learning about marketing, branding and social media to promote their respective family farm businesses.   

“We attended a number of inspirational presentations, and it was refreshing to hear such honest, open farmers and business people speaking ‘from the heart.

Farmers know they’re doing a good job, but we are not always good at getting that message out, so we’re going to get in touch with Farming Connect and see what we can do to improve!”

Christian Nightingale of Lely Atlantic was both a speaker and exhibitor at the event. With some of the industry’s most innovative, futuristic equipment on display, Mr Nightingale and his Lely Center Wales sales representative, Clive Thomas, said that they’d had an excellent day of networking with some very positive leads.

“There was huge interest in some of the cutting-edge equipment that will undoubtedly transform UK dairy farming in the future – in particular systems that will reduce ammonia emissions and improve animal welfare.”  

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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