Aled Evans, Rest Farm
Aled Evans is a pioneering grassland manager who farms regeneratively in partnership with his brother, Iwan, on 500 acres of land nestled between the ancient Preseli mountains and the patchwork fields of rural Carmarthenshire.
Growing up on a farm, Aled and Iwan’s father instilled into them an appreciation of the natural world and always told them that if they looked after the land, the land would look after them.
Neither brother went straight into farming. Aled worked for the Environment Agency for ten years and Iwan works for Microsoft, but when their Aunt retired they decided to take over management of Rest Farm near Whitland.
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Rest Farm had previously been run as a conventional dairy farm, but Aled and Iwan saw an opportunity to do things differently. The brothers wanted to develop a stable farming system that could be replicated year on year so decided to base their business on three pillars:
- Legacy – looking after the environment and the community
- Lifestyle – not working more than a 50-hour week on average, having every other weekend off and holidays
- Profit – making a good living growing quality food.
The drought of 2018 made them think more carefully about grassland management, root systems and soil. They realised that some of their grasses had very shallow roots and that this was not good for drought resistance.
Grazing for their 480 strong herd of Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Belgian Blue is planned out a month in advance. Cattle get moved daily and grass is given a long resting period of 30-100 days.
‘It mimics more natural grazing systems like bison in the wild where the cattle move on when they have finished grazing an area... We have 50 conversations a day about grass… we are obsessed’.
Roots across the farm are now much deeper, pulling in more nutrients. They have trialled direct planting and have fields with a variety of plants - chicory, plantain, timothy, red and white clover and some bird’s-foot-trefoil. They now use no nitrogen fertilizers at all. The recent increasing cost of fertiliser has therefore not affected the business and they have made a 5-figure saving by not buying in fertilizer and feed. As their farming system is now more resilient to the impacts of climate change, their grass production was not significantly affected by the drought of 2022.
A biodiversity audit identified an increase in birdlife such as skylarks and linnets, which is down the high levels of invertebrate life and berries in the hedges which are cut infrequently. The hedges have increased levels of biodiversity, have acted as shelter for the cattle during hot periods and have not negatively affected productivity.
Rest Farm is now ‘Certified Regenerative by AGW’ (A Greener World) and have been through a thorough holistic certification process that looks beyond soil carbon to healthier food, biodiverse systems, clean air and water, good working conditions and animal welfare. Critically the certification involves an ongoing plan and annual auditing and gives them and their suppliers the confidence that they are doing the right thing.
The farm is increasing accessibility of regeneratively farmed produce in their local area and the doorstep selling is going well. Delivery involves a whole family outing with the children coming along, boosting the connection between people and where their food comes from.
Further afield, through grassland work they got to know the HONEST burger company, based in London, who they now supply directly, along with two ethical butchers in London.
In 2021, in recognition of their pioneering, profitable, with nature farming approach, Aled and Iwan won Beef Farmer of the Year in the Farmer’s Weekly awards.
“We’re developing a farming business that we are really proud of, developing the environment, people, community - and having fun whilst doing it.”