Farmers producing premium beef on the heathlands of Pembrokeshire have welcomed a new supply initiative that places their produce on the shelves of a major local retailer.

The farmers all graze cattle traditionally on heathland in the countryside around St Davids and Fishguard and had been exploring ideas for marketing their beef locally.

Thanks to a four-way partnership involving the producers, agri-food support initiatives Agriscope and Cywain, and the National Trust, the beef is now on sale at south west Wales’ largest independent food retailer, CKs.

For farmers like Robert John, it means he no longer needs to transport his animals out of Pembrokeshire to sell.

“It puts real meaning into the term local food. It is a much greener option than shipping food away from Pembrokeshire and then shipping other food back in,” says Mr John, of West Farm, Tretio.

“Previously I would have had to send my beef cattle out of Wales, I’m very pleased I no longer have to do that.”

Annually, he hopes to sell around 30 of his Aberdeen Angus and Hereford crosses through the scheme.

The seeds for the Pembrokeshire Heathland Beef initiative — also known as Cig Tir Comin — were sown when the farmers came together through an Agriscope group mentored by Rob Cumine. Cywain, a scheme that helps primary producers in Wales add value to primary produce, then stepped in to help.

Robert John says the assistance of these two organisations has been invaluable.

“The help we have had from Agriscope and Cywain has been essential, without this we would not have been in a position to move forward with this idea. There was a seamless transition between the two which worked really well.”

Andrew Tuddenham, area warden for the National Trust in north Pembrokeshire, hopes the scheme will act as a model for other farmers in the area to get involved.

“Heathland covers 16% of the total surface area in Pembrokeshire so there is lots of potential for expanding this scheme,” he says.

Rob Cumine is confident the Heathland Beef brand is set to go from strength to strength.

“Despite the current recession it still shows there is an opportunity for farmers to add value to their businesses by supplying local markets, providing all parties within the chain have realistic expectations,” he says.

“I am sure Heathland Beef will go from strength to strength, based on the foundations that have been laid over the last six months.”