Whilst most farmers see their role as raising and preparing high quality stock for the live market or directly to the slaughterhouse, Sion Ifans, Chairman of Merionethshire FUW, sees a wider supply chain responsibility, from 'gate to plate', and has demonstrated the importance of communicating with his customers.
The background stems from a conversation he had with the owner of the local Camlan Garden Centre and Shop in Dinas Mawddwy, near Machynlleth. When Sion asked why local lamb couldn't be sold in the shop, the owner replied that it was hard to find. Typical of Sion, and with his enthusiasm and interest, he decided to do something about the situation and respond positively.
He arranged for his own lambs from Brynuchaf Farm to be transported to Randall Parker abattoir in Llanidloes, and then cut by butcher Marcus Williams, again locally in Llanidloes. The terms and conditions were decided, and the venture started in April 2019. It quickly developed into supplying 2 lambs a week to the shop, and now supplies 3 lambs a week on a fairly regular basis.
The ‘Cig Oen Mawddwy’ brand was developed and is now popular not only with local residents, but also by the thousands who pass daily on the nearby A470 trunk road. The work gives Sion a great deal of pleasure.
The ability to trace the meat back to the upland farm that finishes lambs on grass alone, and the merits of Welsh lamb at its best, is very important. The principles of sustainability and being environmentally friendly are paramount in the process.
Buying and selling locally as much as possible is important to Sion and his wife Gwawr, who jointly farm Brynuchaf with Gwawr's parents, about 5 miles north east of Dinas Mawddwy.
Partnership is important here, with Gwawr responsible for the marketing on social media channels, and running the Instagram account @cigoenmawddwy. There is pride in the tidy packaging, the recently awarded food hygiene grade 5, and the fact that the whole carcase is sold there. Sion says that demand has certainly increased following the arrival of the Covid-19. Also note that Lisa and Ian Allsop are extremely enthusiastic about the farm shop, and eager to sell online in the near future.
Sion is totally convinced that the agriculture industry has a good story to tell, and this local initiative is central to that. He prides himself on his produce, and Sion's face is clearly proud when customer feedback is received about the distinctive taste of the lamb
This is a small scale initiative at the moment, but Sion says that it does contribute to the local economy and community, and of benefit to climate which is such an important topic for the future.