A targeted approach is the way forward according to Farming Connect’s newly appointed steering group

The group, established to give farmers the chance to provide input on services ranging from the type of projects run by Farming Connect to how best to communicate with farmers, met for the first time back in October.­

Members were selected from nominees to provide a fair representation of sectors, regions, ages and genders.

Elain Gwilym, who farms beef with her partner, Guto, at Cefn Lleuar, Llanllyfni, is one of the members.

She wanted to get involved for multiple reasons: “I think it is a great opportunity for us farmers to be able to work together with Farming Connect to tailor a service that, as agricultural businesses, we need to evolve and develop sustainably while also ensuring it gives value for public money.”

The first meeting, chaired by Farming Connect’s Programme Board chair, Euryn Jones, was very productive and generated much group discussion, giving members an opportunity to share ideas.

Much discussion was between members advocating the positive collaboration work with organisations such as grassland groups, breed societies and processors.

With strong links already established by Farming Connect, Euryn said Farming Connect is keen to hear from more organisations too.

Discussion groups and group advice working, services which Farming Connect has a strong reputation for delivering to a high calibre and are well used by farmers and others, were also welcomed.

The group felt there was great benefit to be gained from farmers sharing information and furthering their knowledge, together with peer-to-peer learning and mentoring through the Farming Connect Mentoring Service.

The group also supported Farming Connect’s focus to future proof their farms, this is essential within a period of change for the industry, with a specific focus on areas such as carbon, ration management and people management.

Continuation of the excellent work that Farming Connect has implemented in encouraging more women into agriculture was also recognised, more of these events should be organised to build on the strong foundation that’s already in place.

The introduction of vet support to the Advisory Service was a very welcome development, providing a service that enables farmers to get specific advice on an animal health issue and/or a generic health plan.

Group member Aled Vaughan-Jones, who produces milk from two block calving herds at Llwyn, Lampeter, sees a case for events to be more focused on specific themes.

Aled believes that each business should take the opportunity to revalidate their details with Farming Connect to ensure you receive targeted communication of Farming Connect services.

He said: “All farmers are very busy and when lots of emails and other correspondence come through it is easy to overlook them.”

“I appreciate that there are so many different sectors and systems in Wales that Farming Connect cater for, with the new revalidation process I hope the notifications I received will be more targeted allowing me to focus my attention on the services available to further strengthen our business.”

With this in mind, Euryn said farmers would soon be asked to complete a Farming Connect revalidation process to ensure that their details are up-to-date to enable a matching of specific services to assist their businesses.­