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A Welshman gave up his career as a primary school teacher to take up farming and take the Cardiff foodie scene by storm. Shaun Jones, 36, grew up on a farm in Ceredigion and his father and grandfather before him were both butchers. But for a young Shaun farming seemed like too much hard work with the 4am starts and long hours. Teaching year four at a local primary school seemed like a much better option.

However, in his mid-twenties and looking towards the next stage of his teaching career, he realised his future and passion really lay in the family farm. He wavered for six months until deciding to commit. Fast forward several years and he opened his first butchery shop in Canton, Oriel Jones, Farmer & Butcher, followed by a second in Pontcanna selling home-reared Welsh Black beef, Welsh lamb, pork, and free-range poultry to discerning shoppers, chefs, and restaurateurs in Cardiff.

Shaun, a former teacher, is a fourth-generation farmer and butcher
Shaun, a former teacher, is a fourth-generation farmer and butcher (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

“It gets you in the end,” he said from the farm in Llanybydder, the sound of sheep bleating in the background. “If it’s in your blood. Going away was the best thing for me. I grew in confidence and being in the education environment did make me appreciate what we have here at home.”

He is the fourth generation of his family to farm and he hopes his two young daughters, aged three and seven, might be the next. But for now he’s all about showing his growing customer base what it really means to be a progressive regenerative farmer on the hills of Cwmann just outside Lampeter.

It means taking a slightly different approach to modern-day farming – working with nature as closely as possible and farming less intensively. He measures grass growth, grows clover instead of applying fertiliser, and he keeps stock numbers low. The results rather speak for themselves in the fat marbled steaks on the shop counter and the queues snaking out of the door.

Shaun understands the power of social media and he uses Instagram and TikTok to showcase his mostly homegrown produce. He is perhaps an anomaly in an industry which tends to be on the older side as it attracts fewer and fewer into the trade. But his enthusiasm and passion for what he does shines through. In the first four years of taking on the shop in Cardiff he increased the turnover sevenfold. And in the last year alone he’s managed to increase turnover a further 15%.

Now with two shops in Cardiff Shaun and his team have found a strong and loyal customer base. During the pandemic queues formed out the door and down the street. “At the start of the pandemic it went crazy,” he said. “At the peak people would queue down the street for an hour and a half. Lockdown gave people time to shop locally.” He has managed to retain a lot of those customers, he adds proudly.

Shaun in his Canton shop
Shaun in his Canton shop (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

"The customer average age is pretty low compared to the rest of the industry," he continued. "It shows how exciting the future is for craft butchery.” He calls his team "craftsmen" as they showcase smoking techniques alongside dry aging and butchery. “I do feel it’s on trend,” he added. "There is a definite want for ethically farmed sustainable produce. The field to fork story is high on our customers list of priorities.’’

He continued: “Instagram is probably the most popular platform out there. We’re very fortunate that in Cardiff we have actors and rugby players who visit us regularly and they’re good at promoting us."

He has the “perfect balance” between life in the shop and life at home in the countryside and increasingly he’s finding himself putting greater emphasis on making time to redevelop the online platform and enhance the online presence of the business.. Not that he’s complaining. “It’s very promising,” Shaun said. “This is my passion. It’s what I believe in and we are profitable.”

Shaun isn’t resting on his laurels however and nor does he take what he’s achieved so far for granted. After deciding to come home to farm – something he says was “an easy decision in the end” – he initially started a box scheme selling his own produce online but he quickly realised he needed a premises to make it viable. Luckily he came across a rather old and dilapidated shop in Canton and took it on five years ago. Last year it had a major revamp and now it looks very classy and stands out prominently on the high street.

The shop front in Canton
The shop front in Canton (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
The family business offers a huge range of top-quality award-winning Welsh produce
The family business offers a huge range of top-quality award-winning Welsh produce (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

“Now is the time to set the foundations for our business,” he said. “Improving equipment and facilities and staff and the farm, it all takes investment. But there’s a definite want for what we do and that encourages me."

He initially thought he might be able to balance teaching alongside farming at just the weekends. But he can’t do anything by halves. “I said if I’m going to do it it was now or never,” he said. “I could see the potential. I had this vision – I always wanted to sell my own produce.”

Selling lambs and beef to market means farmers are at the whim of market-day prices and it makes it impossible for any kind of financial planning. By taking a “field to fork” approach and selling his own produce Shaun is able to work backwards from the carcass.

It helps that he has a great team in his shops which allows him to split his time between city and country. It was a bit of a coup to get renowned butcher Martin Player on board. He retired from his own business in Whitchurch but boredom quickly set in. He’s now integral to the Oriel Jones team and has become a firm friend, said Shaun. At the other end of the scale, Ieuan Pincott, 27, is the Canton butchery manager and has been working as a butcher since he was 16 and is the future of the business. “It gives me confidence in the business,” said Shaun.

Shaun's field-to-fork philosophy has been critical to his success
Shaun's field-to-fork philosophy has been critical to his success (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

"It’s driven by passion," he continued. "No farmer is doing it for the money. Everyone who is a farmer is in it for passion. The best feeling about farming is that feeling of achievement and building it for the next generation. I’ve taken it on from my dad and his dad before him and I’m adding to it. My piece of the puzzle is the shift in the ethos of farming."

Shaun uses social media to educate his customers and show people the reality of farming. “I want to show them what we are doing. I also feel it is important to show that we are delivering on our promise.” he added.

Farming is a privilege and it’s one he took for granted perhaps as a youngster. “I take my daughters to market and they have a cup of tea and cake in the van,” he said. “It’s quite an uncomplicated life if you allow it to be. I find it quite grounding. There’s nothing more humbling than when you’re out in the pouring rain and it’s just you and the dog. It puts things into context.

"I’m lucky I’ve got the best of both worlds – the shop is all hustle and bustle and can be quite intense. The pace is very different on the farm."

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