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Farmer turns a traditional craft into cash with tanning business.

Byline: Chris Kelsey Farming editor

Alivestock farmer has turned what began as a pastime into an award-winning business. Hayley Hanson first started tanning back in 2011, when she struggled to find somewhere that could tan the hide of one of her pedigree cattle.

Finding a gap in the market, she set up her own micro-tannery at her farm, Mascoed Farm at Llandefalle near Brecon.

Not only is her new venture - called Hayley Hanson Hide - keeping traditional crafts alive in the heart of Mid Wales, it is also starting to build a reputation worldwide.

The business has already got off to a great start, taking the Countryside Alliance's UK Champion for Farm Enterprise for 2016, with the award presented at Westminster earlier this year.

For some years her exquisitely crafted hides have been tanned and prepared for the local community.

Now, though, a wider market in countries such as America and Australia beckons, as her work is becoming better known through her website and social media.

Ms Hanson is planning to expand and invest in new facilities, such as a laser-cutter to increase production, and to take on two staff, including an apprentice.

"I started working with neighbouring farms, and now demand is growing as people see how attractive well-made local leather goods can be," she said.

Ms Hanson sells a wide range of leather goods, including bags, purses and sporrans, and is developing a new line in hard-wearing leather aprons, traditionally worn by blacksmiths and other craftspeople.

They're all made from the hides of the farm's own herd of pedigree British Blue cattle, and those from local farms in mid Wales and Herefordshire.

"We own a pedigree and commercial herd of cattle and raise the heifers and steers not destined to join the herd for beef. All our leather and hide is a by-product of the beef industry.

"As with all farms in the UK, we adhere to the highest standards of animal welfare. Our cattle have happy lives grazing on lush Welsh pasture, with occasional treats like pumpkin," she said.

Quality furniture is another avenue, and Ms Hanson is in contact with manufacturers who are showing increasing interest in her materials for high-end products.

The vast majority of hides of animals slaughtered in the UK go abroad, many to China.

"Nearly all are used for low-cost bags and jackets and re-imported to Britain and other countries," explained Ms Hanson.

"I like the idea of using them here to make quality products, using the skills I have learnt and producing something of value at the end."

A hide typically takes around six months to prepare, and the firm is planning to expand production to keep up with demand.

Ms Hanson is looking ahead at expansion. The plan is to buy more equipment for the business and increase production, as well as the range of leather goods.

"I would like to employ two people and pass on the skills I have," she said. "After that we will consider further growth as demand increases. The business has been backed by a PS7,500 loan from the Start Up Loans Company through Robert Owen Community Banking (ROCB), based in Newtown, which administers the scheme.

Business consultant David Garner said: "We are delighted to have been able to support Hayley and to help her develop this business.

"It means that local skills are being fostered, and her quality work will serve to promote Wales and Welsh skills in the UK and further afield."

ROCB is one of the administrators of the Start Up Loan Scheme in Wales, and has lent more than PS1m to 140 businesses in Wales in just over four years.


Farmer Hayley Hanson, left, and business consultant David Garner at Hayley's farm at Llandefalle near Brecon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 22, 2017
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