Author Archives: Tom Hills

Introducing… Frontier Agriculture

Michelle Andrews, Frontier’s Public Relations Manager

Michelle Andrews, Frontier’s Public Relations Manager

Frontier is the UK’s leading crop inputs and grain marketing business, recognised for its close customer relationships with farmers and grain consumers and its successful management of the whole arable supply chain.  Frontier operates across all aspects of arable crop production and marketing supplying seed, crop protection products and fertiliser to farmers. They have a team of 115 agronomists providing specialist agronomy advice to farmers.  Frontier have been members of LEAF since 2003 and have been a principal sponsor of Open Farm Sunday since 2007.  Michelle Andrews, Frontier’s Public Relations Manager tells us more about the business and why they support LEAF. 

frontierTell us a bit more about Frontier, what is the secret of your success?

We employ more than 800 staff across 46 sites nationwide, with around 150 of those based at our headquarters in Witham St Hughs, near Lincoln. Our success comes from the expertise of all our employees and it’s vital that we attract and retain the best people, who in turn nurture strong relationships with all of our clients. 

seed bags

You pride yourselves in your dedication to your customers and quality products. How do you achieve this?

Our customers know that they can rely on our people for specialist, expert advice and seamless delivery across the supply chain. Customers build close relationships with their own small team of specialists who get to know the people and the farm so that they can tailor their advice to achieve the best possible outcomes for that particular business.

All of our work is supported by research from a national trials programme that covers 140 hectares on 23 sites, and we have a continuing commitment to researching new techniques and technologies that can improve all aspects of crop production, for example we are now able to use our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), to map fields and produce detailed images which can be used to highlight specific crop attributes. It offers benefits in a range of areas including crop health monitoring, weed identification, yield estimates and plant counting.


Farmers are increasingly having to find innovative ways of responding to the challenges of climate change, how do Frontier view their role in helping farmers do this?

Frontier’s agronomists have always taken an integrated approach to crop production. They consider the impact of the rotation on soil health, the use of different cultivation techniques and soil nutrition, as well as crop variety choices. By taking this wider view they are able to help farmers adapt to changing conditions. As we experience more extreme rainfall events for example, we have been looking at the potential of cover crops to capture nutrients, increase soil organic matter and limit leaching and soil erosion. 

What are farmers looking for in their crop protection products?  How are their needs likely to change in the future?

Quite simply, products need to be effective. Good management of the way they are used on the farm ensures that there is less likelihood of resistance and minimises the impact on the environment, and of course that can often lead to cost savings, which are always welcome. In future we are likely to see the development of new crops which are more disease resistant and readily able to extract more nutrients from the soil.

What does Integrated Farm Management mean to Frontier?

The principles of IFM have been the foundation to our agronomy for many years, and we always looking for new ways to improve the service we offer. The use of a range of crop inputs will always be vital for food production, but these need to be managed by using a wide variety of stewardship methods to compliment them. Our Kings division are experts in conservation and cover crops and advise on all aspects of environmental stewardship. This is also complemented by SOYL who specialise in precision crop production and variable rate technology. This combination of specialist services allows the grower to maximise yields while simultaneously limiting the impact on the environment and encouraging biodiversity across the farm.

Why LEAF and Open Farm Sunday?

Frontier is in the privileged position of knowing the agricultural industry inside out and working with farmers every day of the year. We feel it is vitally important to share that knowledge with the public. The work which LEAF does in managing Open Farm Sunday ensures that people can gain a much better understanding of how agriculture works, and based on that they can make more informed decisions and understand the issues faced by farmers. Additionally, many of Frontier’s staff have their own farms and love having the opportunity to show people what goes into producing the food we eat.

Frontier Agriculture are corporate members of LEAF and principle sponsors of Open Farm Sunday, for more information on corporate membership please click here.

How to run a safe Open Farm Sunday event

Jeremy Padfield, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West

Jeremy Padfield, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West

In the seventh of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Jeremy Padfield our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West, discusses health and safety for Open Farm Sunday visits and why it doesn’t have to be as dreaded as it often is!

When we first took the decision to open our farm, health and safety was one of my biggest concerns. However, I soon learnt that most of the issues can be resolved with a bit of common sense and preparation.

Number one on the list is to carry out a risk assessment yourself and then get a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to look around the farm who can pick out maybe one or two hazards that we miss because we see them day in day out. This person could be a neighbouring farmer or someone who is not too familiar with your farm.

A great way of preparing for the big day is to get a map of the farm and buildings. By using a birds eye perspective you can see how the flow of visitors from car park to the various activities is going to work best. It will also highlight where the catering or picnic area (if any) is best located as well as any areas where animals will be situated. It is crucial that these areas are kept well apart and there must be hand washing facilities between the two locations.

The animal areas should be clean and well bedded and anything that your visitor may come into contact with must be clean, such as walkways and gates/ hurdles. Good practice is to have a disinfectant mat or piece of carpet on the entrance, which is a good way of keeping prams and pushchairs clean as well as protecting your livestock!

The animal contact locations should be well supervised with informed staff or volunteers making sure that no one is put at risk to E. coli. Obviously no eating or hand to mouth contact should take place. Visitors should be informed by plenty of signage and verbally from the guys stationed in the area that all (parents and children) must wash their hands when leaving these areas. Watch out also for little Jimmy dropping his dummy and then popping it back in his mouth! Running cold water along with liquid antibacterial soap and paper towels should be supplied.

The ‘bird’s eye’ view of your farm also helps pinpoint high risk areas such as ponds, slurry pits, chemical stores, workshops, grain bin/silos, tractor/trailer areas, electric fences which must be locked or cordoned off with signage and tape.

Having machinery on display is a great crowd pleaser, but make sure that if visitors are allowed onto machines then you have staff supervising this. It is also essential to take the keys out as I remember on our second Open Farm Sunday, when a responsible parent handed us the key to the combine which had hastily been brought out that morning and parked in the yard! Also ensure that any sharp or dangerous parts of machinery are cordoned off to avoid any injury.

Tractor and trailer rides are always popular

Tractor and trailer rides are always popular

Everyone loves the tractor and trailer rides but if you are running this activity then you must ensure that you comply with the current legislation. The main points are that the seating must be fixed, the sides of the trailer should have a hand rail and kick board and no gap big enough for a child to get through and the trailer to have independent braking.

There are two qualifications that will be necessary:

  1. First aid. It is important that someone on site (it doesn’t have to be you) is a first aider who can be available throughout your event.
  2. Food hygiene. If you are serving food then someone must have a food hygiene certificate.

Toilets are pretty important but don’t get too concerned because one loo should be enough for 400 to 500 people as long as they don’t want to use it at the same time!

Finally, you must let your insurance company know that you are hosting the event and ensure that you have adequate public liability (£5 million) cover, but don’t worry, most insurers won’t charge an additional premium for this!

Have a great event!

About Jeremy

Jeremy runs the family farm in the Mendip Hills in Somerset. The farm is predominantly arable along with a beef and an equine business. The farm carries out lots of conservation work and all the land is in HLS and ELS. This is the 7th year that the farm has hosted Open Farm Sunday.

What we’re planning for Open Farm Sunday

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria

In the sixth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Gail Anderson our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, discusses her plans for Open Farm Sunday.

My mantra for Open Farm Sunday is “The everyday to farmers is a fascinating day out to everyone else”. Just because you live on a farm and interact with it 7 days a week it doesn’t mean that the people coming to visit your farm have the slightest clue of what you do. With this in mind, the activities planned for Open Farm Sunday can be as simple or as creative as you want.

Tidy your farm up and let the public see a few pens of livestock, clean out your parlour and have the machines pumping water through them, or organise a farm walk or tractor and trailer ride. Something simple like showing an ear of corn, the corn in grain and then a selection of things which could be made from it, i.e. flour, bread, etc, can fascinate an audience.

Open Farm Sunday

Animals always add an attraction, but if you don’t have any of your own, then why not ask your neighbours to bring some of their animals or be on hand to answer questions about lambing, calving, and the like? Remember to adhere to the health and safety guidelines for livestock:

  • Have them in a newly bedded up area
  • Ensure there is no seepage or run-off from the livestock
  • Have someone supervise the area

If you let the public pet the animals make sure you have hand-washing facilities; or if you don’t want visitors to touch the animals,  try some lengths of drainage pipe to allow people to feed the animals, this will make them feel connected without the worry of any potential health concerns).

Hand washing facilities are paramount: simply have a running tap (hot or cold), liquid soap and paper towels, put up signs to encourage hand washing and have helpers to ensure visitors keep their hands clean. It’s that simple.

From personal experience it is great to rope in friends and family to not only help with the management of the day but also to add a bit of variety. Some friends, who work in the logging industry, come to give demonstration of horse drawn bracken rolling, we know people in the RSPB who are happy to have a stand and take people on guided walks, friends have small rural companies so they have a stall or two selling rural crafts. The tractor and trailer rides always go down a storm, as does a barbeque if you have your own produce – both of these things are firm favourites for our Open farm Sunday events.

Your local NFU or Young farmers may also be interested. It’s so much fun, especially when you have extra people mucking in. Promotion needn’t be a headache either; anything from a few posters in local shops or the odd sign dotted about, to getting in touch with local newspapers and radio and asking for some coverage. Make it as big or as small as you like!

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About Gail

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, lives with her parents on their 200 acre arable and livestock farm in County Durham. The family as a whole has found involvement in Open Farm Sunday very rewarding, and a wonderful way to inform the public about farming whilst also connecting with the local farming community and friends.

EVERY farm has something to shout about on Open Farm Sunday

Rebecca Dawes, Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator

In the fifth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Rebecca Dawes our Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator, discusses the ways in which all farms can get involved in Open Farm Sunday.

To many, what goes on behind the farm gate is a mystery, but Open Farm Sunday is every farmers chance to bridge the gap and be very proud of what they produce.  EVERY farm, regardless of size or type, has something to shout about on Open Farm Sunday. Writing this as both a host farmer of 8 years, and as the Scottish Open Farm Sunday Coordinator, I have had the privilege of attending events that welcomed a restricted 20 guests, to those who watched more than 200 visitors walk through their farm gates, right through to my last open day which was enjoyed by more than 2000 enthusiastic visitors. It is often said that as farmers, we forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public. For example, one host farmer only welcomes 30 guests, and they have to phone and pre-book. They join him in their wellies, coats and aprons fresh on the Sunday morning to help him check his sheep. They walk the farm with him, ask questions and take photographs – buzzing as they leave, their experience will undoubtedly be shared with friends and family.

Some farmers want to take it to the next stage, so they welcome 200 visitors. This time pre-booking is not required, the posters provided by Open Farm Sunday have only been distributed in the local community. The farm walks run every 30 minutes and on returning to the farm yard, his family are cooking burgers and bacon rolls that guests can buy for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Setup in pens away from his normal livestock is a dozen different breeds of sheep each with its own description sheet, and in the adjacent barn is a wall and information table full of material from the British Wool Marketing Board. Again the guests leave with a smile on their face because they have stepped through those farm gates that they pass daily.

"As farmers, we can forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public"

“As farmers, we can forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public”

Then there is the farmer who decided to go that step further, distributing posters and leaflets to the community and local school groups, putting an advert in the local newspaper, inviting the local radio to interview them, persuading some of the Open Farm Sunday sponsors to carry leaflets in their stores and putting up road signs that were supplied by Open Farm Sunday.  The local young farmers group along with scouts are showing cars to their parking place and using it as an opportunity to ask visitors for a small donation to charity.  The farm walks have been replaced by a tractor and trailer that is available every hour. The refreshments are now offered in a grass field with picnic seating and a couple of toilets have been hired. The wool information display is accompanied by the local spinners and weavers group who offer demonstrations and a chance to have a go. The local school is running an art and craft workshop using wool to make sheep out of toilet rolls. A neighbouring farmer is running sheep shearing demonstrations at various intervals throughout the day, the local animal feed company has come along to show what the animals eat and how much per year and a local butcher is running a sausage making demonstration with lamb.  Away from this a local business with a bouncy castle has been invited to take some space and charges children a minimal fee to enjoy it, the local church is coordinating a few trade stalls who have been charged to attend with the money going to the church roof fund, a local drama group is telling farmyard stories, a music group is singing a few songs while guests enjoy lunch and a large red fire engine is getting plenty of use by young boys and girls who want to pretend to be “Fire Man Sam”, although this has to be parked by an exit just in case it has an emergency. The local machinery company has donated a combine harvester, tractor and forklift – each vehicle has a poster with a pound sign and question mark on it. Visitors are asked in a mock auction to “bid” for the items to the value that they think it would actually have cost the farm, and finally a circle of bales is laid out ready for the farmer to return from his tractor and trailer tour to take centre stage at the “Farmer Question Time” before closing the event. This Open Farm Sunday event has been open for five hours, families have come and gone full of enthusiasm for the food and farming industry, and the only activity required by the farmer is driving his tractor and speaking to his guests.

Regardless of whether your enterprise is sheep, dairy, cattle, chicken, vegetables, fruits, crop or something else, there are plenty of individuals and businesses out there who will come along and support your event. This could be simply by providing materials, running an activity or taking a stand. The question to ask when organising an event is – what do I want to get out of this, if someone comes along what will they get out of it AND what lasting memory do you want visitors to have.

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About Rebecca

Rebecca Dawes and her family have been hosting Open Farm Sunday events since it began in 2006, initially welcoming 90 visitors and building the event to over 2000 visitors in 2012. Rebecca is the Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator and is also the Communications and Rural Affairs Manager, at the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.

The biggest soil management challenges this year

This week we will be launching the first issue of our new service, LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management Bulletin. If you’re a LEAF member you will be getting this next week – keep your eyes on your inbox! The first issue is all about sustainable soil management, so we’re asking what you think will be the biggest challenge to your soil over the coming year. Please answer the poll below, we will be following this up in a future post.

SONY DSC Soil management is something of a hot topic for us at the moment, in our last blog post Alice Midmer, LEAF’s Projects Coordinator, wrote about our new sustainable soil management case studies, containing practical information on soil management practices and lots of soil data. You can download six sample case studies on our website here. A further 17 will be coming soon to LEAF members. For more details on LEAF membership click here.

New perspectives on sustainable soil management

Alice Midmer, LEAF

Alice Midmer, LEAF

Alice Midmer joined the LEAF team last year to produce some practical on farm background to the Simply Sustainable Soils booklet. In this post, Alice tells us about her experience visiting some of our members’ farms across the UK.

Fresh from two terms of an Environmental Bioscience Masters at Warwick University, I went straight in to a more practical experience of environmental matters and food production, with a three month placement at LEAF. My task: To produce some practical on farm background to the Simply Sustainable Soils booklet.

The first task was to assemble a list of ‘Reference Farms’ from which to take detailed soil data and site-specific soil management information. The project was run in partnership with Asda and the reference farms consisted of both LEAF Demonstration Farmers, LEAF members and Asda farms. Next a (lengthy) questionnaire was produced to ensure sufficient data collection. With that, the only thing left to do was get out there!

The fields at JB Shropshire, one of the six preview case studies available to download

The fields at JB Shropshire, one of the six preview case studies available to download

New to agriculture, armed with my Mini and some reassuring words from the LEAF team, I was off.  During July, I was lucky enough to visit 23 farms during what turned out to be the hottest, sunniest, loveliest month in years – what a joy (and contrast to the current weather)! The farms were located in a total of sixteen counties but the many Mini miles on the motorway were made worthwhile by the beautiful parts of the country I was able to visit and the fascinating and knowledgeable farmers I had the pleasure to meet (and no, none of them paid me to say that).

In addition to collecting valuable and vast amounts of data, these visits also provided me with a fantastic insight into soil management and Integrated Farm Management. After just a couple of visits, the complexities, compromises and trade-offs farmers face on a daily basis became apparent. Through seeing first hand some of the sustainable soil management techniques deployed by many farmers, I started to understand the real meaning of IFM and what this means to farmers across the board. This further understanding has made me incredibly keen to contribute all I can to the industry in terms of a fresh perspective, analytical experience and communicating farmers’ messages to the wider public.

Lower HighfieldThe opportunity to visit over fifteen LEAF Demonstration Farms, working effectively and producing a more sustainable food source economically, was an incredibly good introduction to agriculture. In addition, LEAF Demonstration Farms encourage technical visits from a wide range of farmer groups and so if seeing different aspects of Integrated Farm Management in practice sounds like something that might benefit your business find your nearest LEAF Demonstration Farm here. Alternatively, I compiled a case study for each of the farms I visited. To get a sneak peek into the Integrated Farm Management ethos of some of the farms I visited and see how sustainable soil management works in different scenarios take a look here.

soilsThe case studies consist of a number of different soil, farm and enterprise types and six are available to download from the LEAF website here, a full set of 23 will be available to LEAF members soon.

Getting ready for Open Farm School Days

Tamara Hall

Tamara Hall, Molescroft Farms

In the fourth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Tamara Hall of Molescroft Farms Ltd. and Yorkshire and Humberside Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, explains how she started out with Open Farm School Days and her top tips for school visits.

I first decided to have school visits on the Friday before Open Farm Sunday to make better use of the activities we had set up and to make full use of the farm being uber tidy! In addition, it would publicise our Open Farm Sunday event. One thing I thought at previous Open Farm Sunday’s, was that the children didn’t ask as many questions when they were with their parents and the parents were loath to look foolish by asking questions. Having the children visit us in ‘school mode’ on the Friday they could learn plenty and show off to their parents on the following Sunday, inadvertently teaching the parents!

Easy in theory, so in a fit of enthusiasm during April 2011 I sent hand-written invites to our eight local primary schools, along with detailed information packs and promises of help with transport costs. I waited excitedly for the pre-stamped reply postcard to flood back. A couple of weeks later I had only heard back from one of the schools who had visited several times before that they would like to come. I think a couple of others eventually sent back the postcards with the ‘No thanks, not this year’ box ticked. I then quickly emailed a number of schools over a larger area and soon had seven schools signed up, one bringing two classes. Once I had recovered from the feelings of rejection and annoyance at how much time I had spent lovingly writing the invites, I started trying to find out why there had been so little interest. Over the past three years I have worked out the following:

  1. Many schools arrange their visits in September for the academic year. They only have funding for a certain number of visits per year so they need to be organised. If you want to get a large number of schools you need to start inviting them in the autumn term.
  2. Some teachers aren’t interested in visiting a farm. You are best to invite more schools and get teachers who do genuinely want to bring their children as they will get more out of the visit and you will enjoy it more.
  3. Emails work well rather than post (cheaper and easier). Only a number will reach the right teacher but again, you need to send them to more schools. Keep it brief as the teachers won’t have time to read pages, just say what you will be delivering and say you would like to make an appointment with the head teacher to explain more about the visit. Follow this up with a phone call.

It will definitely help if you can fund their transport. I have heard that some parents won’t even pay £2 toward a school trip, which means the whole class can’t go. You only need to pay half of the costs, which should be £75-100 per coach. I have found Agricultural Societies quite helpful and Gleadells now help fund our visits, so also ask your business contacts. Ask face-to-face and ask early.

Once you have the schools signed up you need to keep them happy. The main thing they liked about our events is the organisation. They need timetables and maps of the farmyard if they’ll be self-guided between activities. As with Open Farm Sunday, signage is essential. I find this part is more important to the teachers than linking it with the curriculum – they will only visit if food and farming is relevant to what they are already planning to do in the classroom.

Rudolph Day 029The other response we have had is how interactive it needs to be. I started off only wanting 7-11 year olds, I prefer talking to the older ones as they’re so entertaining. However, schools like to bring 5-7 year olds since it fits well with what they are doing in the classroom. This age group needs more hands-on activities but all ages learn more by doing than by listening. We have now made our groups smaller with 15-20 children in each group. If you are funded for Educational Access through HLS these smaller groups still count as a full visit as long as you get a feedback form for each group.

We have eight activities areas around the main farm yard, each lasting for 20 minutes and so eight school groups visit each day. Our hands-on activities which also work for Open Farm Sunday include:

  • Candling eggs at various stages of incubation and handling day-old chicks. Our local incubator shop runs this but you could also ask another farmer to do this for you. This is very good for teaching life cycles, which all children study.
  • Planting potatoes. Get the children to help plant potatoes in buckets (in compost rather than soil) then harvest the previous groups potatoes which they planted. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t grown – you can explain what does happen. They will remember that potatoes grow under the soil.
  • Grinding wheat. You can buy cheap hand grain mills on eBay and the children love to grind a handful of wheat into flour. You can then get them to sieve it to show them where bran comes from. This helps connect the grain we grow with the food they eat at home.
  • Milk a cow. All the info you need to make a pretend cow for the children to milk is here on the FACE website 
  • Make a scarecrow. You can buy cheap disposable white overalls and ask local charity shops to save you some clothes that aren’t good enough to sell in return for a donation. Get the schools to bring the heads – balloons covered in papier-mâché is a good pre-visit activity. The children will love stuffing the overalls with straw and dressing them up. You can have a prize for the best scarecrow. Furthermore you can explain why you need to put bangers on the farm!

Whether you decide to invite one school or several, I’d recommend hosting school visits they are both rewarding and great fun!

Take part in LEAF’s Open Farm School Days 2nd to 13th June.  For more information contact LEAF:  024 7641 3911 or email

About Tamara

Tamara Hall runs Molescroft Farms Ltd, a family owned arable farm in East Yorkshire. Alongside the arable farm 10% of the land is in Higher Level Stewardship and she started a Community Allotment in 2012, with 70 plots let and with a waiting list of over 50. 

She started hosting Open Farm Sunday in 2007 with an invited group for a farm walk helped by the RSPB. In 2011, she ran an Open Farm Friday by inviting local schools to publicise their Open Farm Sunday. This evolved into Open Farm School Days with 1,000 visitors over the week in 2012. Tamara has been the Regional Coordinator for Yorkshire and Humberside for four years.

Visit the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow when it stops near you!

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

In the third of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, David Jones, Farm Manager at Morley Farms Ltd, invites you to the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow of Information Events. Subscribe to this blog to receive updates directly to your inbox!

To retain its competitive edge, a Formula 1 team would keep its innovations and designs under wraps until the last minute. But most farming businesses are somewhat different – after all, most of what we do is done outside. If I did find a new variety of golden beans, then it would be out growing in a field for all to see!  As commodity producers we are not in direct competition with each other, so we can open our gates and openly discuss what we do. This is the reason why I think Open Farm Sunday works so well.

Every year LEAF holds events for host farmers and this year, we’re going one step further with a new Roadshow of 24 events across Britain from Exeter to Inverness!  Each Information Event is not only for newcomers to Open Farm Sunday, but experienced hosts who want a refresher and gather new ideas and top tips including the all-important health and safety.

Wherever you manage to catch the Roadshow, I’m sure you will be inspired.  All events follow the same format, however there is the flexibility to address specific concerns and embrace the experience of people in the room, sharing ideas and solutions to common problems.

At one event I ran last year, a farmer in Essex was worried that they had a small farm down a narrow lane and lived near a large population of people. What if thousands of people turned up and what if it rained? The advice was maybe having a ‘ticket only’ event with a restricted number of people. Or limiting promotion of the event by giving quantities of event flyers to local primary schools to put in their book bags.  Or just go for it and have lots of friends and neighbours on standby to help if required on the day. As for parking, maybe they could borrow part of a neighbour’s field.

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Many of the questions revolve around health and safety. The first step is to apply some common sense. Look around the farm for anything that is sharp/pointy/oily/dirty/greasy/slippery. Protect from visitors by cleaning, covering or removing it from the site, but best of all simply keep it behind a barrier or fence.

One of the most critical things is to prevent animal faeces coming in contact with people, particularly children under 5 years. If you want some bedtime reading the ‘Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions – Industry Code of Practice‘ gives some up to date information.  And join the Roadshow when it stops at a town near you for all the latest information.

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About David

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 730 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet. The farm also hosts about 35ha field trials for NIAB TAG, the John Innes Centre, Agrovista and others. Every year the farm has about 800 visitors including school children, students, farmers, consultants and international groups. David has helped and co-hosted several Open farm Sunday events and in 2013 became Regional Coordinator for the eastern region.

Open Farm Sunday – How I became inspired to open my farm

In the second of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Tom Allen-Stevens, South East Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, explains how he was inspired by his first Open Farm Sunday workshop.

Open Farm Sunday

Tom hosts an Open Farm Sunday visit

It was curiosity as much as anything that prompted me to go to the first Open Farm Sunday workshop I attended. It was held at the Overbury Estate in Gloucestershire, and I was keen to have a snoop around as much as to learn about putting on an event.

The potential downside was that I felt I was going to come away feeling a bit inadequate – Overbury’s a LEAF Demonstration Farm and a bit of a jewel in the crown of English rural estates, while manager Jake Freestone’s the master of public engagement. Was there any way my planned event would match up?

But the workshop was actually a real inspiration. I’d arrived with a host of questions – what sort of activities should I put on? Was I allowed to let children clamber all over the combine? Should they stroke the animals?

I soon realised it’s not about abiding by a set of rules, however. Whenever a question was raised, it was usually countered with “What does everyone think?”, and the answer usually lay in common sense that would come from the ensuing discussion – it’s immensely empowering and you soon realise that the most important aspect of Open Farm Sunday is that it’s YOUR event about what YOU want to show people on YOUR farm.

Open Farm SundayThat’s not to say there wasn’t really useful structure and guidance throughout the workshop – it leads you through all the niggly aspects of an event, from how to approach publicity, through ideas on activities to aspects of health and safety to be aware of. The bit I found most inspiring was on getting your message across – LEAF has good pedigree in this area from its Speak Out training, and this was condensed really neatly into one of the final sessions of the afternoon.

The guidance and the discussions from that day will always remain with me – I don’t think we’d have had the confidence to put on our first event without it. As it was, it was a real success, and we’ve done three more Open Farm Sunday events since. Overbury may have the charm, diversity and facilities of a large Cotswold estate, but we’ve got our own charms and secrets, and it never ceases to amaze me how interested people are in day-to-day farming routine.

As South East regional co-ordinator, I’m now in the privileged position of running these events this year – which have evolved into a roadshow covering Exeter to Inverness with 24 events! All of us, with LEAF’s help and guidance, put a lot of time and focus into ensuring we bring to these roadshows the latest ideas and guidance. But still, the most inspiring aspect is always what the attending farmers themselves bring, and the most rewarding bit for me is when a first-time host farmer leaves at the end of the afternoon and you can tell they have that same sense of empowerment.

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

Notes from an Agricultural Tour of Kenya

Andrew being interviewed for local radio on day one

Andrew being interviewed for local radio on day one

Where in the world are the best examples of Integrated Farm Management (IFM)?  Following Susie Emmett’s post about why Kenya has lots to inspire us, Andrew Burgess, LEAF Trustee and Director of Agriculture at Produce World, shares with us his notes on the same tour. This is the second post in a short series of posts on IFM in Kenya, subscribe to receive them straight to your inbox!

Day 1

Every day’s a School Day
Set off to the airport to meet 3 other farmers at Birmingham, hadn’t a clue what they looked like.

Didn’t take long to spot the ‘Farmer on Tour Hat’ and we all met up. Then off to Amsterdam to meet the other 6 farmers in the team.  Sat next to Tony on the plane to Nairobi, we got chatting about each other’s farms and business, and the learning began.

The farmers on the trip are all of the ‘learned’ types, Nuffield scholars etc., so a pretty good bunch to bounce theories and ideas around, should lead to a stimulating and useful trip.

After a rough night on the plane and the rigours of Nairobi airport we were determined to stay awake so we went to the Elephant Orphanage and then onto the Nairobi branch of the Farmers Club for a good old fashioned colonial Sunday lunch.

Now arrived at the hotel to meet 2 local radio journalists, it’s a great time to be interviewed having now been up for 36 hours! Team building tonight!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

Day 2

Life after Pesticides

Real IPM with Real IPM
Wow, what a day, I thought my head would explode with new knowledge overload, I’ve seen some fantastic things today which give me great hope that there will be life after pesticides.

We met a fantastic and philanthropic couple (look it up) who hailed from Norfolk and have now made their lives in Kenya, both from an academic research background they have created 2 magnificent but intertwined organisations.

Firstly Real IPM Ltd
They have developed a menu of products to tackle nutrition, pests and diseases using beneficial insects and fungi. I won’t go into massive technical detail other than to say that I left the place hugely inspired and motivated to test these ideas on a field scale in the UK. I think they have the potential to be a big part of pest control in brassica growing and very interesting for Potato Cyst Nematode reduction. Henry and Louise Wainwright had huge credibility the way they explained the research, production and use of these products, which are used on outdoor field scale here in Kenya.

Secondly REAL Impact
Which is a charity, they have developed a range of simple and very low cost solutions to help small Kenyan farmers produce more food, highly nutritious, especially in Vitamin A & Selenium. 1m square vertical gardens, worm farms to recycle food waste back into fertilizers, mini AD plant to run your cooker and hot water, water harvesting & they are training people how to use these things alongside there very affordable bio solutions. (See pictures) This all fits in with their big purpose, which is based on the fact that Aids viral treatments don’t work unless the user has a good diet. To put that into perspective 30% of students at the local university are HIV positive.

There big issue is what to do next, they need capital to role out this fantastic work but they don’t want to sell out to un-ethical corporate business, how about an ethically based crowd funding campaign.

After a fantastic lunch on the veranda we travelled to an Avacodo farm, producing fruit for UK retail, it was out of season but still interesting.

We then crossed the equator en route to our overnight stop, in case you’ve always wandered the water goes clockwise around the hole 20m North and anti-clockwise 20m South and yes, straight down if you’re on the line itself.

I am staying in a tent in the bush 200m from the very remote lodge where the rest of the team is staying, it might be an interesting night!!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

Day 3

Farming in the Wild West
A very different day today, not so mind expanding but much more into farming on the edge.

We met Apollo who is Director of Agriculture and CSR for KHE, Kenyan Horticulture Exports. A very impressive man who was very passionate about his farm, his community and all things Kenyan; he never stopped smiling and laughing all day.

They grow Fine and Runner beans, tender stem broccoli, mange tout, baby corn and will shortly be into year round asparagus production. They export 95% of their crops mostly to UK.

We visited his plant nursery to start, all hand done, compost into trays, seeding etc., They make their own steam sterilised compost with only 30% peat added, so it can be done! Although the plants had a few unhealthy specimens among them.

Then to the fields, again hand planting and weeding, crops were good and it seems performance is improving on the back of new investment after 7 years of lean; it is biblical here!

photo[3]The highlight of the day for me was seeing the new Waitrose foundation maternity hospital, built in the middle of nowhere and servicing a community seemingly forgotten by its own government. They have also built a five classroom sized school and funded the teachers.

The Waitrose Foundation channels money from retail sales and distributors directly back to projects that the communities growing crops for them want. It seemed to me to be a very efficient way of doing good in Africa, little beaurocacy and little chance of people to fiddle a bit of cash for themselves.

We had a great debate about the rights and wrongs of exporting food from Kenya where 4 million people needed food aid last year, I’ll cover this on its own later in the week because I need to put both sides of the debate so you can decide.

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

Day 4

Farming on Mount Kenya
Today we visited Finlay’s farm on the slopes of mount Kenya, although we were virtually on the equator we were also at 2300m altitude so the weather was fresher and suited to UK style cropping. The farm is managed by Marcus Rayner, who worked for Produce World before he moved here 2 years ago.

There has been a lot of investment in reservoirs, the Packhouse and covered growing. The farm felt like a happy place, lots of smiles and waves from the local workers, Marcus travels around the farm every day on a motorbike and is clearly connected to his workforce. He has also improved yields and productivity.

They grow Tender stem broccoli, sugar snap peas, mange tout, fine beans and runner beans, which have supplementary lighting to simulate UK Sumer day length.

Also a fast developing fresh herbs business, mostly in tunnels with bio pest control, the crops looked & tasted wonderful, especially the aniseed flavoured Thai Basil mmmm!

photo 1But it was also had a pioneer feel about it, triumph, (great looking crops) and disaster  (120 mm hail storm in 3 hours) are close cousins in African farming. We then set out on a long drive down a very rough track through some wild grazing country to our overnight stop, we heard a clunking noise so stopped to check and the wheel nuts were all loose, close shave!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

Day 5

Ladies like Orange Roses
A long day today, up at 5am for our first bit of R&R, we went on a short drive around a game reserve, saw rhino, giraffe, buffalo, Jackal and various bok. The scary bit was a big male baboon actually getting inside the van whilst some of the boys were still in it, we’re laughing now but could’ve been nasty.

We visited Ravine Roses today, a very impressive company, owned by a local family with a very philanthropic approach, we learned about rose production using tunnels (on the equator very hot) integrated pest management, producing their own predator bugs, Swahili name dudu.

We also learnt about Fairtrade, I now I finally get it. 10% of the ex farm price is put straight into the farms FT fund, this is administered and spent through a transparent and democratic process run by the workers and community.

To quote Khaled the CEO, it is equally as good as the Waitrose Foundation but run in a different way; in fact we then went to visit a couple of projects where Waitrose Foundation and FT had worked in a joined up way. We visited the nursery funded by the Waitrose Foundation (for infants to 3 years), which is due to be opened next week and the Kindergarten school next door (3-6 years) was funded by FT. We also visited the community centre with library, computer room, doctors and pharmacy, bank and relaxing room.

The business itself is nicely integrated and is LEAF Marque certified, they are rainwater harvesting and have a wetlands reed bed style water purification plant to recycle water from the pack house.

They have a new dairy herd, which to my eye looked very good. Simon our dairy farmer was impressed with the quality of the milking routine and the animal welfare.Ravine roses, dairy 30 cows > AD plant> power fridges & fertility for rose beds!

The muck from the dairy and the green waste from the pack house will be going into an AD plant (under construction) and the gas generated will power the refrigeration unit in the flower pack house, these guys know what they’re doing!

photo[6]I was also very impressed with the team that showed us around, all local and extremely well educated and trained, Peter for instance, as well as being a fantastic communicator, he has a degree in Horticulture, Masters in Agronomy & an MBA, that leaves me for dust!

Anyway folks what you’ve always wandered; Janice (the owner and marketing Director) took us through some UK market research on Roses; did you know that Ladies prefer Orange roses? Before you go rushing out to impress, they still want men to buy them red ones (passion), we suggested a mixed orange and red bunch to cover all bases!

Over and Out

Farmer Andrew

[Many thanks to Andrew for sharing his notes with us!]

Join Agri-Tour Kenya 2014: nine UK farmers wanted

If you would like to be considered for a place for the next tour of good agricultural practice in Kenya then contact Susie Emmett for details of how to apply for the next AgriTour Kenya ( in March 2014.

Agri-Tour Kenya is organised by Green Shoots for Smiths Gore with financial support from RDPE.