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Adapting to change Welsh food producers rise to the challenge of a ‘New World’

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It may not quite be ‘business as usual’ for small food and drink producers in Wales. Still, many are turning to alternative ways, and collaborating with fellow producers to maintain sales.


Supporting producers through these often difficult and rapid changes is Cywain – a programme designed and developed by Menter a Busnes that is dedicated to developing new and existing micro-businesses and SMEs in the Welsh food and drink sector.


Cywain’s Marketing and Events Team Leader, Alex James says: “The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have hit many food and drink producers particularly hard. But there are positive stories to be highlighted too.


“Through Cywain’s continued work with producers, we know how hard they are working to adapt their business plans and services to enable them to continue to provide customers with fantastic Welsh produce.


“For some it has meant changing the way they work, while others have come together to create new opportunities – and have embraced the spirit of ‘clustering’ which Cywain already fosters as the facilitator for the Fine Food Cluster Wales.


“So, we thought we’d share some of the stories about producers who have
successfully taken up the challenge of operating in this ‘new world’ we are living in. and encourage the public to shop local.”


Cywain’s drive to highlight ‘good news’ stories follows on from the launch of its online Producer Map (https://menterabusnes.cymru/cywain/en/our-producers/ ). The specially created map pinpoints a host of excellent food and drink producers from across Wales who can provide an online shop and delivery service. 


Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “It is heartening to hear how producers and small food and drink companies are adapting their businesses at this time – and I am sure there will be more uplifting and positive stories to come.

“By thinking outside of the box, and by working and clustering together, producers are keeping their enterprises going and continuing to providing customers with wonderful Welsh food and drink.”

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CLAM’S CAKES
Over the past 40 years, Clam’s Cakes has gone from a Crickhowell coffee shop enterprise to a purpose-built bakery supplying hotels, restaurants, cafes and retailers across the UK.


Therefore, when the hospitality sector was closed down, Clam’s lost virtually all its orders overnight. Left with freezers full of its award-winning, hand-made cakes, the company swiftly came up with an alternative plan.


Production may have been temporarily halted, but the Phillips family – who founded the business – have taken to the road to bring people a slice of cheer to people currently unable to leave their homes.


Clam’s are now delivering cakes and biscuits to customers living within a 10-mile radius of Crickhowell.


The cake selection changes weekly, with the list published on the company’s Facebook page. Orders are then placed and paid for by phone and delivered to the customer’s doorstep.


“It’s just been our family doing it, but people have been very grateful,” says
proprietor, Jane Phillips “we’ve had so many compliments. My son, Lewis, has been making bread so that we can offer customers loaves with their orders. We’ve got a warehouse of flour, so we’ve added flour, fresh eggs and butter to the selection. It’s helping our egg supplier too.”


Also, the family has donated personal protective equipment (PPE) normally used in their bakery to a local health centre. And they have been delivering cakes to hospitals and frontline workers. On a personal note, Jane has found the telephone contact with customers rewarding experience too.


“I’ve found some customers who are finding isolation challenging enjoy having a chat when they ring up with their order.


“We may not be making much of a profit at the moment, but we are making people happy.”
More information: www.clamscakes.co.uk

JACK AND AMELIE
Unable to launch their new children’s meal enterprise as planned, Sophie Brown and Abi Dymmock are instead concentrating on building a customer base around their native Cardiff.


The two friends came up with the idea of creating ‘grown-up food for kids’ after their own experiences of trying to juggle the demands of work and a young family. They named the company after their children – ‘Jack and Amelie’.


Says Sophie, “While on maternity leave, we had time to prepare new and varied meals for our children. But on returning to work, this became harder to fit in, and we found there wasn’t a lot of ready prepared food available to help with those busy
times.”


Their dishes are twists on family favourites “packed with veggies”. They offer variety and balance, with meat, vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. The frozen meals include Rainbow Thai Curry with Lentils and Veggies, Caponata Stew with Herby Turkey Meatballs, Beef Casserole with Root Veggies.


However, the friends’ plans to unveil the Jack and Amelie range at a major UK food and drink trade event last month were scuppered by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Undeterred, and utilising the skills from their previous careers in project
management, they swiftly adapted to the situation – and are using their social media channels (@jackandamelie) to keep in touch with customers.


“We’d found a great manufacturer, and we were ramping up production, but we’ve had to change – fortunately in our previous jobs, we were used to pivoting ideas. So, for now, instead of our original plan of supplying retailers, we are selling direct to the public around Cardiff.


“We’re making contactless deliveries and establishing contact with parents. We’ve had great feedback, especially from parents who are now having to look after their children while also working from home.”
More information: www.jackandamelie.co.uk


TŶ TANGLWYST DAIRY
Once a familiar sight, doorstep milk deliveries are proving to be a vital service for many people who are self-isolating.


For south Wales dairy, Tŷ Tangwlyst, doorstep milk deliveries are also helping to keep open an essential outlet for the farm’s award-winning dairy produce.


The Lougher family has long been supplying milk from their 110-strong herd of Pedigree Holstein dairy cattle to customers’ doorsteps around a ten-mile radius of the farm in Pyle, near Bridgend.

Now, as their round gets bigger, it is even prompting the business to expand its workforce.


“With premises such as schools, offices closed, the commercial and wholesale side of our business has taken a downturn. However, our domestic deliveries have increased,” says dairy farmer Rhys Lougher, whose family have been farming at Tŷ Tanglwyst for several generations.


“Demand for doorstep deliveries has been such we’ve had to extend our rounds. As a result, we’ve created extra roles in the company, and when our commercial trade


does come back, we’ll be looking to take on additional staff.
“We’re a small family business with dedicated, hard-working employees. Luckily, we’ve been able to very quickly adapt to changes to our customer base and respond to people’s needs.”


The award-winning business, which produces butter and cream too, also supplies customers with eggs and fruit juice. But in these challenging times, some changes have had to be made to meet demand.


Says Rhys, “There has been a shortage of cardboard egg boxes, so we have had to use plastic, and we’re buying fruit juice in bulk. With more people baking at home there has been a surge in orders for butter – so that has been tight at times.” Orders are placed via Facebook and social media, and for many customers, Tŷ Tanglwyst’s deliveries are particularly welcome.


“People have said how grateful they are for the deliveries and that it is helping them while they have to stay at home. Many people have also said they can taste the difference with our milk, and that when this is all over they will keep ordering from
us.”
More information: www.tytanglwystdairy.com

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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