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Diversify to thrive

One farm has made sustainability their focus and future

One farm has made sustainability their focus and future

Challenging times for British farmers has meant that many traditional farms are under the constant threat of closure.

However, Julie and Steve Ayres of Nash Mountain Farm in Pembrokeshire have found novel ways to withstand these pressures and have embraced sustainable diversification to thrive, rather than survive.

“I’ve always been on the farm. We’re a farming family, that’s what we do. And I’m incredibly proud of that.”

Julie grew up on Nash Mountain Farm nestled in Pembrokeshire’s wealth of natural beauty. The traditional ewe farm has been in her family for generations, and Julie’s first love was horse riding – having spent her youth qualifying as a riding school teacher where she kept horses on the farm.

“There’s something undeniably therapeutic about being in the countryside; it’s what I’ve always known. I have such fond memories of galloping around fields on horses when I was young – and it’s fair to say that farming, agriculture and the landscape are as much a part of me as my family were to the land” remarked Julie.

Julie Ayres

As an adult, she and her husband Steve left Wales to run a bed and breakfast in County Wexford, Ireland. But farmers never stray too far from their flock, and the couple returned to Nash Mountain, both homesick for Pembrokeshire and to care for Julie’s elderly parents.

I’ve always been on the farm. We’re a farming family, that’s what we do. And I’m incredibly proud of that.

Julie Ayres

When the couple inherited the farm in 2012, Julie and Steve became the fourth generation of Nash Mountain family farmers to look after the business, and the couple added a cattery, kennels, campsite and two modern static caravans to boost their income and diversify their offering.

It’s no surprise that UK farming has experienced difficulties in recent years. The uncompromising and volatile nature of the UK’s farming economy has meant that some farms have fallen victim to closure, battling against rising costs of maintaining a farm and a drop in global demand for UK produce.

“We love working with our animals and the land, and we have seen the disastrous effects that both financial pressures and bouts of disease such as TB and Foot and Mouth have made on some of our fellow farmers – and we thought long and hard as to how we would survive if they became a problem for us” said Julie.

So what to do next? Give up and sell out? Move on to greener pastures? Not exactly, but close enough.

Diversification is not a new concept in farming, but instead of replacing one crop for another or renting out building space; Nash Mountain has rethought the entire concept by future-proofing and securing the farm’s prospects.

“We proudly want to keep the farm exactly as it is – but limit the number of external pressures which could threaten us. We began looking at the natural features of the landscape, and realised that it’s not just the fertile lands that we can farm, but also the abundance of wind.”

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Julie and Steve began working with Triodos Bank to fund the 50kW wind turbine which completed in July. The wind turbine is set to generate 20% more than the national average, and this green electricity feeds into the National Grid.

“The farm is now fully energised by the wind turbine, and we know that we can depend on this source of income to finance parts of the farm which are sensitive to market conditions. Coupled with the fact that we can contribute to green electricity production in the UK, the addition of this turbine to our farm has been incredibly uplifting.”

Thinking sustainably and ethically is how we want to run our businesses and farm our land. We have a great deal of work to do to realise that dream, but for us, that is our future in farming – and that is the legacy that we would like to leave the next generation

Julie Ayres

 

Whilst financially sustainable, the wind turbine has acted somewhat as a seed for a completely different way of thinking for Julie and Steve – and has made an impact on the rest of the farm.

The couple are close to gaining Green Tourism accreditation for their caravan, campsite, kennels and cattery.

Nash mountain resized
This is phase two of the couple’s plan to turn Nash Mountain into a completely eco-friendly site.

“Thinking sustainably and ethically is how we want to run our businesses and farm our land. We have a great deal of work to do to realise that dream, but for us, that is our future in farming – and that is the legacy that we would like to leave the next generation.”

Whilst ensuring the financial stability of Nash Farm is a priority, our contribution to creating a greener society is incredibly important to us – and gives us a great deal of hope that our farm is worth continually investing in. It’s exciting to think how this very traditional farm may look in 10 or 20 years, and certainly we look to our new future with buoyant optimism.

We would like to thank Triodos Bank, and particularly Relationship Manager Sue Walker who really understands the farming landscape – and it’s been ideal to secure financing from a bank with a sustainable mission.”

 

Project CV:
Nash Mountain Farm

Nash Mountain Farm is a fourth generation husband and wife family farming partnership over approximately 60 acres of land in South Pembrokeshire. The Farm currently consists of 100 ewes. Triodos Bank provided funding for the purchase and installation of the wind turbine at Nash Mountain Farm.
 

words: Chris Yong

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