Can tea be grown successfully on Welsh hill farms?
29th October 2023
A Welsh hill farmer has planted 140 tea bushes around her farm in Powys, to see whether this high value crop could generate additional income for the business.
Mandy farms 150 acres at Cleobury Farm in Heyope, Knighton. With a diversity of land types, working out which areas were most appropriate for planting and where they were most likely to thrive and produce an optimal yield, was an important first step.
She received funding for the project from the Farming Connect ‘Try Out Fund’, a new initiative that gives farmers and growers the chance to test their ideas and bring them to life.
A total of 140 Camellia sinensis tea bushes are being grown on different plots around the farm, with sites selected through a process known as geospatial analysis. This involves assessing the compatibility of the crop with geographical locations based on factors including climate, light intensity and soil characteristics.
In the coming months, plant growth will be assessed and phenotypic traits such as height, width, stem diameter and leaf area recorded.
Mandy says there is a gap in knowledge about tea growing in Wales and the UK generally as it is a novel crop.
“This project will build on the existing knowledge, and could be applied to other novel crops,’’ she says.
This will be beneficial not only to her business but to others too, she adds.
“We are trying crop diversification with the aim of improving profitability within our agricultural business whilst protecting the environment, improving diversity and producing a high-end crop long-term.’’
Impacts on soil biology
Mandy, who also farms beef and sheep, hopes there will be a positive effect from growing this crop on soil biology too, especially on land with sparse grass coverage.
On a broader scale, she also sees the potential of reducing imports of tea if growers in Wales can establish a successful supply of it.
“There is a need for an environmentally and socially responsible food and drink local supply chain, providing consumers with nutritious products, long term,’’ Mandy suggests.
“Keeping profits local brings wider benefits, with a thriving local economy and increased spend, resulting in an increased supply and further job opportunities, creating cohesive communities.’’
Farming Connect developed the Try-Out Fund to address specific local problems or opportunities with the aim of improving efficiencies and profitability within agricultural businesses whilst also protecting the environment.
“Funding can be used for technical assistance, sampling, testing and other reasonable expenses such as those relating to short term hire of specialist equipment or facilities directly relating to the project,’’ Ms Williams explained.
Funding application forms can be found on the Farming Connect website, or to receive the link and further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.