Dairy, cheese, tourism and renewables – a holistic farm business

We visit a traditional Welsh farm near St Davids, which has diversified into tourism and organic cheese-making - and has a forward-thinking approach to sustainability
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"It just evolved, really," says Wyn Evans. But you get a clear sense of purpose and forward-thinking here

“In this situation, many landowners would forget farming, rent out most of the land and concentrate on tourism,” says Wyn Evans. He’s a third generation mixed Pembrokeshire farmer whose land, near St Davids, commands a view over picturesque St Bride’s Bay. “But,” Wyn adds, “because of the way the farm’s run, it attracts a certain type of people.”

The family business includes a dairy – producing fine organic Welsh cheese, holiday cottages, yurts and a shepherd’s hut, a campsite and renewable energy: photovoltaic, solar thermal, heat pump and wind-turbine. The word “sustainability” is nowhere to be seen – but the business oozes it. No need to say it: an electric vehicle re-charge station is tenderly feeding its infant, as nearby the robotic milker is tending a heifer. Here tourist visitors relate instinctively to understated resourcefulness and common sense. There is no wasted effort on ethical fussiness and marketing flim-flam here. No Wi-Fi. It’s a farm.

The Evans’ business consists about 180 acres – some of it rented – in one unit. “It’s just evolved really,” Wyn explains. “From my perspective it’s always been like this. We had caravans here pre-war, I found an old sign advertising teas and my grandparents ran horse and cart rides to Whitesands Beach. From the ‘50s we’ve run the campsite for tents and small camper-vans.” Joking modestly, Wyn says, “We operate at the slum-end of the tourist trade.” The opposite is true. This business has instinctively focused on discerning customers who do not want a caravan on the neighbouring pitch – and do want a good site without frills. “We don’t advertise our campsite grade. We don’t need to.”

“We’ve been organic since ’91. We have just 65 cows on the robotic milker, and we still grow Pembrokeshire spuds. It’s truly a holistic business because a mixed farm like this attracts loyal tourist customers. A major step for us was the development of the dairy. We sold raw milk, pasteurised, made cream, butter, whole, semi and skimmed milk. But in 1996 the Evans’ invested in cheese-making facilities from a nearby closing business from whom they received some training and the first recipes. Today Caerfai produces both a Cheddar and a Caerphilly type cheese supplied to wholesalers, South West Wales deli’s and, of course, to eat – or as gifts – to the tourist customers. This is another business which has benefitted from online sales.

It’s not all sunshine and tasty dairy, however. “Before the 2008 economic downturn the organic cheese market was most buoyant,” Wyn recalls. “Today we’re making about half the quantity we did then – although our product is now even higher quality and the name more widely known. We’re making just one batch a week – that’s about 600 litres. We don’t really want to make more than our herd can supply anyway.”

“We’ve many challenges ahead, Wyn concludes. “Our future depends on bTB (bovine tuberculosis) management and how POI (product origin identity) and organic certification standards are managed. “This is a family business and we want to continue enjoying it. We do have a major worry, however.” Wyn adds, “Over the century or so the family’s been here, we’ve noticed how our local climate has changed: more storms, gales and the damage they cause – and this is having a noticeable effect on the farm business.” Wyn Evans brings a global issue right down to a local level in the South West corner of Pembrokeshire.