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Green economy wales
2 May 2024

Embracing Change as the Pathway to a Sustainable Future in Farming

GUEST COLUMN:

Iestyn Spary
Goytre Farm

Nestled in the lush landscapes of New Church West, Chepstow, Goytre Farm has been the heart of our family for six generations.

My mother Dianna and I, alongside my grandparents, manage this 110-hectare farm with a focus on Hereford-cross beef suckler herds and rearing beef cattle, including British Blues. As stewards of this land we are committed not just to maintaining its legacy but ensuring its prosperity for generations to come. This commitment drives us to continually adapt and innovate through learning and embracing new ideas.

In an industry as dynamic as agriculture, resting on our laurels is not an option. We have engaged with Farming Connect, a network that has become instrumental in our journey of continuous improvement. Their workshops have equipped us with the latest insights into animal health, welfare, and efficient farming techniques, which are crucial for enhancing our livestock's productivity and ensuring their well-being.

From understanding diseases like Johne’s and bovine TB to mastering calf management and the safe use of veterinary medicines, these learning experiences have profoundly impacted our day-to-day operations. The knowledge gained has allowed us to introduce more precise cattle weight monitoring and innovative feeding strategies, enhancing our productivity and sustainability.

These workshops have not only enriched our understanding but also sparked ideas for diversifying our business to ensure financial sustainability. With the changing tastes and increasing consumer interest in the origins of their food, we see significant potential in a ‘farm to fork' approach. We are exploring avenues to sell meat directly to consumers, which involves working closely with a local butcher and a chef to enhance the value we offer in our meat boxes.

The concept extends beyond just selling meat; it's about offering a piece of Goytre Farm's history and quality, assuring customers of the integrity and care that goes into every product. This venture, coupled with our plans to convert farm buildings into holiday accommodation, represents our response to the evolving demands of the market and our community.

Diversification has also taken shape through my personal endeavours in agricultural contracting and field maintenance, providing services to local farms. This not only diversifies our income but also strengthens our ties with the neighbouring farming community, fostering a network of mutual support and shared growth.

Farming Connect has been pivotal in these efforts, offering not just technical training but also strategic guidance through their diversification surgeries and planning courses. Our local development officer has been a cornerstone of support, helping us navigate the many opportunities which are out there and tailor them to our farm’s needs.

Our journey of learning and adaptation is a continuous one, driven by both necessity and a deep love for farming. It's about more than surviving – it's about thriving by being proactive and receptive to new practices and ideas. As we look to the future, our goal is clear: to ensure Goytre Farm remains a beacon of innovation and sustainability in the farming community, preserving its legacy while evolving to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

To my fellow farmers, I say this: the landscape of agriculture is ever-changing, and so must we. Engage, learn, and be open to the myriad of possibilities that learning and diversification hold. It is not just our livelihoods at stake but the heritage and future of farming in Wales and beyond. Let us embrace change with open arms and an eager mind, ready to lead our farms into a prosperous and sustainable future.

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