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Welsh food and drink producers celebrate project success

A free support project for Welsh food and drink producers will be celebrating its success at next week’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair (November 25th) in Llanelwedd.

Exactly two years since its launch at the 2017 Winter Fair, the Agora project is marking the impact it has made in nurturing and encouraging a new generation of Welsh food and drink producers.

Delivered by Menter a Busnes, Agora was established to provide free support to new and small businesses that produce goods that are grown, grazed and made in mid and south east Wales.

From its outset, the Agora team’s focus has been ‘to make a difference’, and in just 24 months, the project has worked with 257 clients – working with producers to add value and develop new products and markets.

This help was delivered through an extensive network of 1-2-1 mentor support and group activities which allowed individuals to collaborate on new projects to develop the market and ultimately add value to their businesses.

Over two years Agora has held 46 events, from workshops and study tours to high profile public activities such as a Start-Up Farmers Market at the 2018 Winter Fair.

Support to clients has been delivered by working closely with RDP (Rural Development Plan) schemes in 11 Welsh Local Authorities*, co-operating with over 60 partners and sharing knowledge and expertise with the help of more than 35 mentors.

Agora Project Manager, Rolant Tomos, will give a presentation concluding the project, on the first day of the Fair at Tŵr Brycheiniog (next to the cattle ring) at 2pm.

Says Rolant, “Our intention was quite simple. It was to create a forum to learn new things, discuss ideas and help producers to sell their produce.

We believe that Agora’s success has been built on the solid foundation provided by the Menter a Busnes team behind us, and the support we have had from all our partner organisations and mentors.

“Agora is very much a team effort – that is its core strength – and we are incredibly proud of what it has achieved in such a short space of time. We are delighted how producers have utilised the opportunities afforded by the project.

“It’s been a pleasure to see how Agora’s ethos has been embraced by producers, also by all those who have helped us to nurture and facilitate the growth of some fantastic and exciting new enterprises.”

While the Agora project has reached its conclusion, Rolant believes it has been proved that there is a ‘space and need’ for a project of its kind.

He said, “The Agora model has shown how the work of the RDPs can be brought together to create an effective sounding board for businesses. One which offers practical support and encouragement and points people in the right direction.

“Starting a food and drink business is tough; no one can do everything themselves, and even the best people have one thing they perhaps don’t do so well. That’s the time a lot of people lose confidence and momentum – Agora has aimed to give them that leg-up.

“We set out at the beginning to make a difference – and seeing people add value to their produce, businesses develop, and supply chains grow are proof that Agora has done just that.”

Said Menter a Busnes Director, Elen Williams, “The Agora scheme is a prime example of how Menter a Busnes can deliver innovative schemes creatively and bilingually.

“The team delivered more than was asked of them, over a short period and challenging budget. The clients’ stories illustrate that our intervention made a great difference.”