One of this year’s Community Changemakers Fund grant recipients is Will Evans, the incredible 16-year-old who runs his own petting farm. We caught up with him to find out how he’ll be using the grant funding.
Taking alpacas for walks, overseeing the birth of baby animals, and introducing children to small furry creatures is all in a day’s work for Will Evans. The 16-year-old started his Gower farm back in 2017 when he was just 13, and it’s now home to dozens of rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and goats, plus alpacas, pigs, horses, and ponies.
Will’s Petting Farm is open to the public for pre-booked visits. Will also offers alpaca walking experiences and takes his animals to visit nursing homes and schools.
His passion for animals began when he was very small – he’s been showing rabbits and guinea pigs since he was old enough to walk.
“My dad and bampi always had animals, and I’ve been brought up with rabbits and guinea pigs,” he says.
His farm began after his father decided to buy some land so that Will could raise more animals. Will was delighted.
“First of all, I bought 13 female sheep and one ram, and then I bought two pigmy goats – and it’s grown ever since then,” he says.
During lockdown his entrepreneurial spirit shone through when he bought 1000 hens and started an egg delivery business with his mum. Called Gower Free Range Eggs, it delivered around 400 dozen eggs a week around Swansea, Gower and Mumbles. He’s scaled the egg business back since lockdown ended, but you can still buy eggs from his honesty box on the farm.
After making a success of selling eggs, Will decided to start holding open days on the farm, and when these were a success, Will’s Petting Farm was born. “We only charge £2.50 per person for an hour’s visit because we wanted to make sure it was affordable for everyone,” says Will.
To improve the farm’s offering, Will applied for a South West Wales Connected Community Changemakers grant and was awarded £986 to fund a portaloo and improvements to the site to make it less muddy and more wheelchair accessible. “We wanted to be able to open more to the public and to give people a better experience,” he says. “Now they don’t end up with muddy shoes and they’re able to use a toilet so they can enjoy the farm for longer.”
The farm is also available to hire for birthday parties – and one of Will’s favourite things about running it is seeing how much children get out of meeting the animals.
“A lot of children are really scared of animals when they first come to the farm and have never seen these types of animals before. You watch them gain confidence and get really hands on, and that’s really encouraging for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have the privilege of having loads of animals and pets but some children haven’t got that privilege and it’s great to be able to share it with them.”
When he’s not running the farm, Will is busy doing a business BTEC course in Gower College. “It can be quite hard running a farm alongside doing a college course and trying to do visits as well,” he says. “My course is four days a week, so Thursday is my day when I visit nursing homes and do the educational visits.”
Other challenges include having to deal with the occasional death of an animal, and having to make look after the animals’ health. The avian flu outbreak, for example, meant that he had to move his 350 chickens indoors. “They were effectively in lockdown – and it’s not good for chickens’ wellbeing to put them in lockdown for six months,” he says.
However, nothing could dampen his enthusiasm for this unique project. He’s always coming up with new ideas; most recently, he’s bought four milking nanny goats with a view to producing goat soap.
“I’d like to run the farm for a long time,” he says. “I would like to go on to university, but I’m looking at Swansea University so I can still do this on the weekends. The best things about it are when animals give birth and you have new life on the farm, and when you see the animals really making people smile.”