A POPULAR Ceredigion business that has grown over the last 13 years has its sights set on the future after being nominated for a prestigious award.

61 year old Geraint Thomas, and his wife, 58 year old Chris Thomas of Bargoed Farm and Caravan Park, employ 100 people at the site near Aberaeron, which has been shortlisted for the Countryside Alliance awards, also known as the ‘rural oscars.’

They were nominated in the Rural Enterprise category, and will be invited to the awards ceremony in The Senedd on Tuesday 27 February.

Moody Cow
Bargoed Farm is on the A487 between Aberaeron and Llanarth (Cambrian News)

The couple are looking to expand their business, doubling the amount of caravan pitches from 50 to 100, as well as doubling the amount of pitches that have private hot tubs available, increasing from 25 to 50. It is expected the expansion of the campsite will create 10-15 new jobs.

They recently received planning permission to double the size of the caravan park, and they’re looking to offer a spot for commercial fishing inside Bargoed Farm’s onsite man-made lake.

Geraint said: “We’ve recently got planning permission to double the size of the caravan park. We’re also looking to allow commercial fishing to take place on our onsite.”

On top of that, the couple are also in the early stages of planning to build a swimming pool, creating up to 100 more jobs.

Geraint and Chris bought Bargoed Farm and a house unsuitable ‘for chickens’ 13 years ago after legal issues related to planning forced them to sell their previous farm ‘at a heavily reduced rate’ and live in a caravan, all while raising their five children.

Chris said: “It was a very depressing time. It had never happened in planning law before, and it never will. Geraint’s family have farmed in Breconshire for a thousand years, a cousin of his did a family tree and found his family going all the way back to William the Conqueror’s time, almost all of them were farming in Brecon. It was a travesty he couldn’t continue that family tradition.

Bargoed Farm in Ceredigion (Cambrian News)

“We went from a 28 room mansion to living in a caravan with 5 children. When you’ve got to sell your beds, things are pretty bad.”

After 13 years, the couple turned the once ‘dilapidated’ farm into a successful and diverse business, employing gardeners, hospitality staff, maintenance workers, kitchen staff and cleaners who work across the site's 50 caravan pitches, Moody Cow restaurant and bistro, as well as an upstairs wine bar called the Posh Cow, a ‘Moo-tel,’ and a wedding and events venue attached to an indoor children's play areas.

But the work didn’t stop there. Geraint and his son, Henry, became fascinated by environmentalism and self sufficiency, leading Geraint to work towards making the farm completely off grid, and self sustainable through the use of solar panels, and a bio fuelled generator.

Henry constructed a recycling plant out of parts he sourced from ‘redundant’ machinery.

“My youngest son Henry, he’s an incredible worker, out in the shed until late at night. He built a recycling centre here out of redundant equipment like old potato machinery.”

Building Bargoed Farm into a successful business hasn’t been easy for the family, after struggling to find a source for the loans they needed to bring the business off the ground, the two got to work - learning new skills, and reapplying what they had learned from their years of farming.

“We had to completely rebuild when we came to Ceredigion - we really struggled. We lost millions from the loss of our planning permission and the undervaluing of our farm among other things.

“When we moved here, it was a pit hole, the house was a place you wouldn’t put your chickens in. Yet I loved something about it. I had a good feeling and I fell in love with it.”

Moody Cow Bargoed Farm
The farm site features the Moody Cow, Moody Calf and Posh Cow to name a few (Cambrian News)

But before they could rebuild their business, they had to find the strength to pull through the tough situation they found themselves in, going from a 28 room mansion to raising their 5 children in a caravan. Chris found the change especially difficult, and was reduced to tears everyday at the thought of it.

“When we were living in the caravan, I’d walk down the Aeron coastal path to Aberaeron everyday. I’d cry and rage every time.”

As well as approaching the challenges of building a new business from the ground whilst approaching their twilight years, raising five children in a caravan, the couple needed to build a network of contacts, and learn many skills to take on roles they struggled to find staff to fill.

“Nobody told us what to do, how to get on and rebuild your life. I’m 58 now and Geraint’s three years older than me, it’s hard, if you haven’t cemented some kind of path by the time you’re forty, it’s a lot harder because you’re older. That hasn’t stopped us though.

“It had to work, or we’d be on the street. We struggled to find staff, so I trained myself, and four years later I could lead the kitchen. There was no option of failing.”