Direct sales turn grass into cash

Selling farm produce direct to the consumer is a chance to turn grass into more cash by cutting out the middle man. But marketing fresh local produce brings its own challenges and a steep learning curve.

Eight months ago, Ted Williams and his mother Sue joined four other farmers to form a co-op, buy a shop and employ a butcher. Garth Uchaf Farm at Pentyrch, Cardiff, now sells up to seven lambs and 1.5 beasts a week through the shop in Treharris, earning above average market prices.

welsh black pack shot
“The shop pays us £2.25/kg deadweight for beef. We get more weight with carcasses than when selling to a larger meat buyer, as they tend to trim more off. Lamb prices fluctuate more, as we try to be slightly above average market price,” Mr Williams told BGS delegates.

The 203ha farm, rising to 333m (1011ft) carries a 56-cow suckler herd of Welsh Blacks and 1150 breeding ewes, predominantly South Wales Mountain ewes. Most of the grazing is permanent pasture or common land and 8ha of root crops are grown.

“There has been quite a lot to learn, but the shop has been far more successful than we anticipated. Tastewise we have a product that couldn’t be better – Welsh Black beef sells itself – and we are selling the whole story of locally bred and fed meat. The abattoir is only four miles away and we now have regular local customers who are more aware of food miles.”

But Mr Williams pointed out the need for diplomacy to get on with fellow farmers in a new business venture and warned of the risk of neglecting farming policy while partners are hands-on in the shop.”It takes manpower from the farms.”

The business must now address concerns over the continuity of supply and how to get around the glut of new-season lamb. In addition, it was launching a website to boost sales and considering supplying restaurants, although they tended to want to push prices down, he said.