Carmarthenshire dairy farmers offer insight to successful business
Diversification is not something that suits every farm business but the Edwards family of Groesasgwrn, Llangynderyn, near Carmarthen certainly know how to put the talent and skills in the family to good use.
Roy and Nerys Edwards, who have four sons Dafydd, 17, Sion 13 and twins Owain and Rhydian, 10, have been dairy farming on the 300 acre holding in the Carmarthenshire countryside for 12 years.
Roy, who won Fferm Factor in 2014, runs the 160 head dairy cow herd full time and Nerys’ time is split between being actively involved in the running of the home farm, and keeping a successful occasion cake business ‘Cacennau Moethus’ going.
Roy’s parents, Emyr and Margaret moved to Groesasgwrn in 1970 and in 1999 purchased an extra holding -Ty’r Stewart- a short 5 minute drive down the road.
Ty’r Stewart at the time of purchase was in need of investment and the family had to update everything including reseeding, fencing and hedge laying. Nerys and Roy first lived at Ty’r Stewart after getting married 18 years ago and six years later in 2006 swapped farms with Roy’s parents to take the dairy holding at Groesasgwrn over full time.
The family faced some tough challenges over the years, with the price of milk being the biggest obstacle. With their milk cheque cut in half the couple had to make a decision - giving up wasn’t an option, so they decided to modernise the milking unit as a whole.
To move the modernisation of the holding forward Nerys and Roy invested heavily, and with Roy’s parents being supportive, the couple consider themselves fortunate. “We’ve been quite lucky because Roy’s parents are forward thinking anyway, and they wanted us to carry on and make a success of the farm. They gave us a great opportunity,” said Nerys.
“The milking parlour is the backbone of the farm and was the most important thing. Once we had that right everything else fell into place. Some people do it the other way round - increase the herd and then upgrade. But then you have cows standing for hours waiting to be milked. And people get stressed out in the parlour for 3 - 4 hours at a time,” Roy remembers.
But it is not just milk, and kids that occupy Nerys’ time. In between milking, paperwork and the school run, she also keeps a successful and steadily growing occasion cake business going.
From humble beginnings eight years ago, making a few birthday cakes for friends and family, and with an artistic flair and love of baking, Nerys has steady orders for her cakes throughout the year. She has now established herself as a Wedding cake business. Her customers are mainly based around Carmarthen and Llandeilo but also recently have expanded to Aberystwyth, Wolfscastle, Cardiff and the Gower.
“All of the cakes are made here at home, which suits me well. I can be here baking until late at night and start early in the morning. It also means I can stay here on the farm with the children. If you have good feedback from people it really is a motivation. And it gives you confidence to get more committed. I remember thinking shall I do a few Christmas cakes and see how it goes. I used Facebook and took photos and all of a sudden people asked to buy my cakes. I then went to a few Christmas fairs and just put myself out there. It appears that people like them, and my customers have been very supportive,” Nerys says.
Using local ingredients where possible and only using the best quality ingredients such as jams, has even won Nerys a few prizes at shows. Husband Roy is a big fan of the cakes saying: “We make sure we get to taste at least a few of them. When Nerys makes her own jam to go in the cakes they are even better!”
Speaking after the visit, FUW Milk and Dairy Committee Chairman Dai Miles said: “On behalf of the FUW I would like to thank Roy and Nerys for showing us around the dairy farm. Their enthusiasm is infectious and I wish them all the very best for the future.”
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