"It’s our way of life, our passion and commitment."
We spoke to Nicola from Trefrawl Farm, which is just a short journey from Boconnoc about their farm and ethos:
Tell us a bit about your farm and the type of farming you do.
At Trefrawl Farm we farm high-quality, high-welfare, pedigree and rare-breed cattle, sheep and pigs. We also grow cereals on a crop rotation system which we feed to our livestock and use for their bedding. We’re farming for the future with our eco-system firmly in mind and are as self-sustaining as possible. Focussing on soil health and carbon sequestration we are on a mission to reduce our chemical inputs and maintain our soil health and biology.
Our cattle are at the heart of what we do, and we believe that healthy happy animals, extensively reared on grass make for great produce.
How long have you been farming for?
I personally have been farming for a year and a half with some time before that at the weekends following my husband around attempting to understand what was going on as I’d never stepped foot on a farm before I met him in 2016.
Trefrawl Farm is my husband Ed’s family farm; they have been farming for over ten years and his family for generations. The Hooper family has been farming at Trefrawl Farm for over 15 years and I’m honoured to be able to join them.
What is the ethos behind your business?
Our direct sales meat business was born out of a desire to get great food out to the people we loved and then to our local community. Food that we are proud to stand behind and is how we’d want it to be, extensively reared, out on grass with minimal fuss. Food that is accessible to people, has integrity, tastes amazing and gives people a genuine farm to fork experience.
We want people to understand where their food comes from and to reconnect with us as the farmer. That’s why we’re so active on social media so that people can see what we get up to and trust that the products they buy from us have been looked after with love, care and respect at every stage of the journey.
In the future we hope to be able to have more people to come visit us and see first-hand how we do things on the farm. We take huge pride in what we do and are responsible for our animals through the full life cycle with our animals being born, bred and reared here on the farm. Our animals come first.
Tell us what is keeping you busy at the moment on the farm? Have you had any new arrivals?
We have been calving, our favourite time of the year and one of our busiest. We calve down around 90 cows and heifers and at the time of writing have 24 left to go so we have broken the back of it. I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’ve had a great season and have had some beautiful new arrivals on the farm. They’re all my favourites.
We currently have three pedigree herds here on the farm, our traditional native Herefords and the continental Charolais, and Limousins all have their own personalities and characters and all of our pedigree stock are named and yes we do know all of them by name! Registering and naming our new calves is probably one of my favourite jobs.
There’s a lot to do at the moment to make sure that the youngsters are all well looked after and that the new mums are being managed on the grass to ensure they get all the nutrition they need to rear them. We’ve recently started mob grazing where we can and so we’ve also been busy doing a lot of electric fencing, as we are moving the cattle through paddocks in our fields quickly, rather than stock grazing.
Silage will be next in the next week or so, this is where we cut the lush spring grass in some of our fields and keep it ready to feed the cows in the winter.
Why is it important to support local growers and producers?
You always hear farmers complain that they don’t have any money, but it’s true. No one farms for the profits, it is because they love what they do. Why do you think so many farmers have diversified their farm businesses over recent years too?
What people don’t always realise is that the margins in farming are incredibly tight and there are a lot of variables in any one year, that are out of a farmers control, that can seriously impact the bottom line of a farm business. By buying directly from the farmer you’re supporting a micro-business that is at the heart of your local economy, that might not be able to survive over the longer term without you.
There are a lot of factors that will impact the price of food when it is sold through the supermarkets. Interestingly, the customer doesn’t see much fluctuation in the price they pay but the price paid to the farmer at the bottom of the supply chain can fluctuate significantly.
Unlike most other businesses, farmers who sell their produce in to the supermarkets are price takers, not givers, by this I mean that the supermarket and the other businesses in the supply chain dictate the price to the farmer of what their produce is worth, not the other way round. This felt ludicrous to me when I first started farming as I can’t think of any other industry where this is the case. It would be like a builder coming to do work for you and you saying what you will pay them, not them invoicing you. By buying directly from the farmer you are supporting them in planning their business based on a set sale price, one that is often more transparent and fairer to you the customer too. By supporting your local farmer you’re also getting access to nutritious and delicious food, you have the peace of mind of where it has come from and have the opportunity to ask the farmer lots of questions too.
How does the lockdown affect farmers?
Day to day the lockdown has not had too much impact for us here on the farm, we don’t see that many people anyway and with the animals it’s been business as usual. Enquiries to buy meat from us directly from the farm have increased, which has been a really positive outcome from the coronavirus. It’s great to see people actively looking to shorten the supply chain, connect with their food and support their local farmers.
Do you think the impact of the coronavirus will change the way people shop for produce?
I really hope so. As mentioned earlier more people are interested in buying from us directly at the moment and I hope they will continue to do so even when things return to some sort of normality.
Supermarkets have always been a convenient place for people to shop but the Coronavirus has made them less appealing, so I think people have looked at other ways to source their food and what better way than directly from the farmer. You know what you’re getting, you can buy in bulk, less packaging and travel miles and you end up with a great produce at the end of it too. I think once people experience the difference between direct from farm produce and supermarket bought, they will stay with the farm produce if it continues to be accessible to them. People generally seem more up for supporting local economies now too which is great. For us selling directly to the customer is such a rewarding part of what we do, we love hearing people’s feedback and receiving pictures of their food, long may it continue.
Can customers buy direct from you, if yes, how?
Yes, absolutely and we’d love you to. The best way is to place an order through our website trefrawlfarm.co.uk or to follow us on social media on Instagram or Facebook where we publicise what meat we have available for sale, when.
We produce on a as and when it’s ready basis and take pre-orders for our meat before it becomes available.