EXCITING times lie ahead for two Pembrokeshire farmers who embarked on the first ever Farming Connect Agri- Academy Business and Innovation Programme as they prepare to put into practice ideas gleaned during the programme.

During a special ceremony at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Anna Jones and Deian Evans, two of 11 farmers selected for the course, met the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies. He heard about the group’s experiences and their plans for implementing their new ideas and theories within their own farm businesses, before presenting each with a framed certificate to commemorate their time in the Agri-Academy.

Anna, of Dinas Cross, received an additional trophy for producing the best farm action plan based on original research and recommendations for delivering sustainability and profitability for a real-life west Wales family farm. Anna grew up in Blaenffos and now manages a farm park at Eglwyswrw.

Business and innovation programme co-ordinator Geraint Hughes, of Menter a Busnes, said the panel of judges were very impressed by the level of research carried out by members and the quality of their action plans.

Although each had the same farming business to work on, they all came up with different recommendations.

The judges – Professor Wynne Jones, chairman of the Farming Connect strategic advisory board; Gary Douch, head of Farming Connect; and S4C presenter and personality Mererid Wigley – found it challenging to select an outright winner from 11 outstanding submissions.

During their time at the Agri-Academy, the group members were put through their paces in a demanding and stimulating programme of visits, workshops and presentations on topics including dealing with change, highlevel negotiations, forward planning, the marketing mix and supply chain strategies.

They also embarked on a study tour to the Netherlands.

Dairy farmer Deian Evans, of Bryngwyn Farm, Newcastle Emlyn, said this overseas visit gave him food for thought.

“I saw a digester in operation on one of the farms we visited and I thought it would be something we could do here at Bryngwyn,” said Deian, who runs a herd of 90 dairy cows and a flock of 120 sheep.

“The farmers we met were doing everything they could to make their businesses sustainable. In this country we rely on whoever buys our milk to set the price, but we met farmers who, if they were not happy with what they were being offered by milk companies, set about doing something else with their milk.

“I felt that they were perhaps more open to change than we are in this country.”

Geraint Hughes said the Winter Fair reception brought the class of 2012 to a close and the focus has now turned to recruiting the class of 2013, with the windowfor newapplications opening early in the year.

For information on the Farming Connect Agri-Academy 2013, call Menter a Busnes on 01970 636565 or email farmingconnect@mentera busnes.co.uk.

* This article was published in the January edition of Pembrokeshire Farmer.