An introduction to farming through a government matchmaking initiative was the start of ‘a dream come true’ for a young Welsh farmer.
Anglesey-born Martyn Owen has won the 2022 Brynle Williams Memorial Award, which recognises the achievements of a young farmer who has found their way into farming through Farming Connect’s Venture programme.
The initiative introduces landowners wanting to step back or exit the industry to farmers seeking a share farming or partnership opportunity.
Martyn, who has progressed steadily up through the industry, is now a successful share farmer and says that the introduction to his new business partner through Venture has been the start of ‘a dream come true’.
As a progressive and dynamic new entrant to the industry, earlier this year Martyn saw his long-held ambition to be involved in not only the day-to-day running but also the strategic direction of a Welsh farm business come to fruition.
It was an opportunity he thought might never come his way, having spent many years applying unsuccessfully for farm tenancies.
“It’s not easy to prove you have the right credentials when you haven’t been brought up on a farm," the 32-year-old says.
"But staying focused and gaining industry experience on a number of farms here in Wales followed by a year working at a large-scale dairy unit in New Zealand has given me the skills and knowledge that I always hoped I’d need.”
Martyn is now an integral part of a 130 acre predominantly beef enterprise near Llangefni on Anglesey.
It’s a role he manages to combine with a separate farm worker role, thanks to the support of flexible employers happy to see him progress within his own business alongside the work he does for them.
In the 12 months since he first joined his new business partner William Griffiths, 60, on a share-farming basis, Martyn has been encouraged to get involved in the future strategic direction of the farm, as well as taking on much of the daily workload.
“It’s fantastic to see Wil enjoying his new role as my partner, because together we have now got great plans to develop the business in a sustainable, profitable way that is already starting to pay dividends for us both,” says Martyn.
Before the two farmers decided to join forces in their new partnership arrangement, Mr Griffiths had let out quite a lot of the farmland as he had no family members able to help him.
Today, with Martyn’s support and a new sense of direction, William is gradually taking the rental land back into the business as part of the share farming agreement.
Thanks to the new low-cost grass-based rotational grazing system advocated by Martyn, the fields have all been soil-tested, ploughed, re-seeded and are ready for the increased stocking levels now planned.
Martyn says: “We are slowing phasing out Wil’s previous suckler cow herd and I’ve persuaded him to focus instead on Limousin, Simmental or Charolais cattle with all the calves finished on-farm and sold for slaughter, so that we avoid expensive winter-feeding regimes."
The two farmers have already started to buy more suckler heifers at six months, which should be in-calf at 14 months from a new ‘easy calving’ bull, and will all be sold as heifers with calves at foot, once a year at the local livestock market.
Mr Griffiths says he is delighted with the direction the farm is now heading in, and says he’s been particularly grateful that Venture found him such a hard-working and able young farmer from the locality.
Martyn and Wil both say that the success of the new share farming arrangement is down to a genuine liking and respect they have for each other after 12 months of working together.
They also credit the Venture programme with introducing them by finding the ‘perfect match’.
With legal and financial agreements and a strategic business plan all provided as part of the service, both Wil and Martyn have the security of knowing exactly what they each expect of the other, with profits and relevant outgoings shared equally between them as they plan the future of the farm together.
Both farmers emphasise the importance of having regular meetings, when all farm issues are discussed openly and honestly and both are happy to help each other out at busy times.
"I have got renewed impetus to develop the farm and I’m confident that with his input, we will drive things forward together," William says.
“Martyn is a very knowledgeable and able young farmer whose ability and determination to do his best for the farm I value hugely and our share-farming arrangement means I now have some time to follow other interests too."