For Rachel Rowlands, founder of Rachel's Organics, strong family values helped her to realise her dreams.
Farming is in my blood and organic farming is my passion. My parents were the same, and my grandparents.
I came home to Brynllys to farm with my husband Gareth and my mother in the mid 60s, having just lost my father. We farmed organically in the 70s and early 80s but it did impose certain restrictions, particularly when you’re trying to grow to support two families.
There was a freak snowstorm in 1982 and we couldn’t get the milk collected from the farm, so I started to produce cream, butter and buttermilk. They received a good reception with the local community and that encouraged me to look at developing yogurts organically in 1984. As history now shows, we became very successful in developing a growing market for organic dairy products.
My grandmother was such a strong influence on me, and I am very grateful to her. She taught me the importance of hygiene when I watched her as a child producing butter.
You could say family was my inspiration, and that’s definitely where our strength lay, with two sons and a daughter working in the business and subsequently employing local people. Gareth’s strength was the financial side of things; sharing responsibilities and using his expertise was a huge factor in creating a strong business. We were also fortunate to have the right local support and people who believed in us.
The best advice I have received about food was to be passionate about your product and have a strong provenance, which was hugely beneficial when promoting the products in the marketplace and supermarkets. My main focus is always the quality of our products, and developing new recipes.
The biggest challenges when you start out will always be finances. We were fortunate to have a decent bank manager and full family support. Putting the farm as collateral to a huge debt certainly focused our minds.
Today we are so proud of what started as a business to support and create jobs for the family. By 1999, we were able to offer work to 55 people. Today the dairy employs 98 people, a major employer in the rural community of Ceredigion and still offering opportunities to Welsh dairy farmers in 2017.
My advice to anybody starting out now would be simple – just believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to chase your dreams.