Fferm Glancynin - Land of Our Futures Stories
The third in the WWF Cymru series, Fferm Glancynin is a 160-acre organic dairy farm in Carmarthenshire.
Elfyn Davies, Fferm Glancynin
Elfyn Davies, together with his wife Rhian, run the 160-acre Fferm Glancynin situated on the outskirts of the village of St. Clears, Carmarthenshire.
The Pasture for Life and certified organic dairy farm takes its historic name from the river Cynin which runs along the farm and down to the sea past Dylan Thomas's famous boathouse some 4 miles away in Laugharne.
‘You can still do things with small farms’
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Elfyn came from a farming background but pursued a career in engineering before returning to farming 25 years ago at almost 50 years old. Elfyn and Rhian wanted a lovely place to live in addition to creating a thriving habitat for wildlife.
They began farming by relying on pesticides and synthetic fertiliser that are harmful to nature, but when they realised it wasn’t working for them, they moved over to organic methods which work with nature and they haven’t looked back. Glancynin is now a haven for wildlife as well as being a successful working dairy farm which also produces and sells dairy products though partnering with local businesses and the wider community.
In doing this they also created a better environment for their livestock. The cattle are healthy and content with plenty of shelter, herbal rich pastures and hedgerows they can browse according to their dietary needs.
‘And the hedges give the cows shelter, wherever the sun is, they have shade. They eat the leaves, the willow and the ash, the hazel, ivy and the cleavers which are self-medicating’
‘There’s room for all of us to live together’
The farm is Pasture for Life and Soil Association certified and Elfyn is passionate about the role of nature in farming. Farmyard manure is the only fertilizer used on the soil and cows are grass-fed with no dependence on imported soy feed to supplement their diet. The land has not been ploughed since the 1990s resulting in improving soil health as it retains its natural structure, organic matter, microbes and organisms which help make it fertile.
Undisturbed soil also locks in carbon. By working with nature through using an Agroecological approach Elfyn can successfully harness the soil’s natural fertility whilst also enhancing biodiversity and tacking climate change.
Tall hedges which are only cut at around 15-18 years old for wood chip and firewood, create shelter for cattle and habitat for wildlife which is abundant. Grazed ancient pastures, hedgerows, along with ponds and waterways and an orchard create habitat for wildlife such as frogs, toads, newts, dragon and damsel flies, grass snakes, foxes, badgers, bats, dung beetles and other insects, owls and buzzards as well as many other birds.
‘We have created a farm like we wanted, not like what others have..’
Woodchip is mixed with cow manure to create compost which is returned to the land. Not ploughing the land means the stored carbon is kept in the ground and brings with it a diverse mix of deep-rooted plants which continue to access water even during drought conditions. This meant that the recent dry summer of 2022 did not affect silage production or grass cutting for hay bales.
‘I produce better silage crops than a lot of other people’
The only external feed that’s brought onto the farm is organic lucerne and alfalfa, to encourage the cows in for milking. The rest of the time cows are either grazing in the fields or eating silage.
Food, Community and Lifestyle
‘Creating food for local people is very important to me’
Glancynin is home to eighty-five Meuse Rhine Issel cows who produce around 1000 litres of milk a day which is made into a range of dairy products on farm, including kefir, soft yoghurt and cheeses. They are marketed locally under the brand Sanclêr Organic. Milk is also delivered tri-weekly to Caws Cenarth to be made into cheese.
As well as supporting their community through providing a local source of dairy products, they provide local employment by welcoming young people from the village to work on the farm. They are currently open to discussing development opportunities by making a few acres of land available to interested people locally to start a small horticulture venture.
Elfyn and Rhian enjoy a peaceful lifestyle at the farm where they have found a balance between earning a living, providing for the community and creating a haven for wildlife and nature.
‘In the morning when I go out I come back much calmer. The trees and being enclosed by trees has a calming affect for me and for the cows.’