LEAF Marque delivering added value to members

The results of independent research into the added value of LEAF Marque certification were released last week.  The study, commissioned by LEAF and carried out by CCRI (The Countryside and Community Research Institute), reveals that LEAF Marque certification can offer significant financial, environmental and social benefits for farm businesses both in the UK and overseas.  Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager, explains more.

The provision of robust, transparent and independent evaluation to support the claims we make about the benefits of LEAF Marque certification, are a vital part of our continual improvement.  This new study, carried out by The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), showed that for many businesses the value of participating in the LEAF Marque assurance system reached beyond their initial motivations for joining, which were predominantly financial, and helped them develop their businesses in ways they had not previously considered.

This independent study, carried out exclusively with LEAF Marque certified businesses builds on previous work the CCRI carried out in 2010 which looked more broadly at the benefits to farmers of LEAF membership. Key findings of the report include:

Improved market opportunities

97% of those surveyed reported that LEAF Marque certification had helped secure access to new market opportunities, with 23% reporting receiving a price premium for their LEAF Marque certified product. LEAF Marque certification was also reported to help farms qualify for other income streams, such as agri-environmental schemes.

Improved financials

36% of participants reported significant extra income as a result of being LEAF Marque certified.  Focusing on LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management principles, which underpin the LEAF Marque Standard, was also shown to make operations more efficient in areas such as energy, soil, biodiversity, water and crop health. In energy efficiency, for example, more than half of participants reported making savings of between £10,000 and £17,000 per year.

Improved biodiversity

66% of farmers who took part in the study reported increased biodiversity with many noting marked improvements in observed farmland birds, insects and mammals.

 

Improved community engagement

71% reported improved relationships with the public from being LEAF Marque certified, through hosting farm visits, maintaining footpaths and having a strong social media presence. An improved engagement with the wider agricultural sector was also reported by 47% of participants. Participants were unanimous in their support for the way LEAF promotes public engagement with many seeing this as of strategic importance for their business.

The study also supports LEAF’s ongoing commitment to adhere to ISEAL’s (International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling) Codes of Good Practice. As a Full Member of the ISEAL Alliance, we are committed to systematically monitoring, researching and reporting on the outcomes of the LEAF Marque assurance system.  LEAF’s monitoring and evaluation programme helps inform stakeholders and drive change and improvement.

These are very encouraging results which clearly show that LEAF Marque certification is delivering tangible economic, environmental and social benefits to farm businesses. All the participants in the study found value in being LEAF Marque certified.  The attention to detail required in implementing LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management principles, which underpin the LEAF Marque Standard, is empowering farmers to make positive changes towards more sustainable farming.

The provision of robust, independent studies of this type allow us to evaluate the impact of LEAF Marque certification and ensure that it continues to deliver meaningful benefits to growers and consumers alike. The results of this research clearly indicate we are heading in the right direction.  We will build on the findings and look to extend the reach and impact of LEAF Marque certification across the globe. We are brilliantly placed to inspire and empower farmers on their journey to more sustainable farming and look forward to continuing to help them do it.

The full report ‘The effect and impact of LEAF Marque in the delivery of more sustainable farming: a study to understand the added value to farmers’ can be downloaded here together with the report summary, LEAF’s response and key highlights.  If you have questions or comments about these reports, we would like to hear them. Please email: enquiries@leafuk.org

 

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Touching on the Technology of Sustainable Farming

On the 25th May, LEAF will hold its second Integrated Farm Management (IFM) Conference at FERA Science Ltd, York, kindly supported by Bayer. Titled, Technology and Progression in IFM, the conference will draw on research and demonstration activities of the LEAF Network to explore the current role of  technology  in IFM and how technology will shape and progress IFM moving forwards.  For more information and to book on, please click here. Ahead of this, we ask Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive to reflect on the rise of technology in farming, how it has shaped the farming landscape and its future role.

Technology is integral in providing healthy food to people and has helped to increase yields and improve the management of farms throughout the UK and the world.

The FAO states that food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed the projected 9 billion people living on earth. Agri-technology has a significant role to play in this, in terms of optimising food production as well as continuing to improve the positive effects of farming on environment and people’s health. The importance of this role is reflected in the support given to agri-technology through the four UK’s Agri-tech centres, and LEAF is pleased to be working with these centres as they develop their partnerships and activities.

Marginal Gains

Much on-farm technology is focussed on adding relatively small proportional changes in farm output. However, together  these  small incremental improvements can equate to significant advances on-farm. This ‘marginal gains’ approach is central to the principles of Integrated Farm Management where attention to detail is key to optimising efficiency.

Information and technology has an important role to play in IFM and we will be exploring new advances in Precision Farming at our conference and assessing opportunities and barriers for farmers in this area.

Information Technology

With technology, comes information, or more accurately ‘data’. Interpreting this data, managing it and using it to improve practices can be a challenge. Indeed, there is a saying ‘we are drowning in information and hungry for knowledge’.

The afternoon session of the conference will focus on the interoperability and user-friendliness of some of these technologies, what the barriers are when using them on farm in a variety of sectors and looking ahead to any potentially unforeseen consequences. The LEAF Demonstration Farmers are inherently early adopters and we will be learning from their experiences.

Precision Management

LEAF Demonstration Farmer, Andrew Francis from Elveden Farms will highlight the use of precision farming methods in large scale vegetable production

Over the last 30 years Precision Farming has developed significantly across all sectors, whether  managing soils in a more targeted way or individualising herd management.  Our IFM Conference speakers will discuss the development and use of many of these technologies. Professor Mark Rutter from Harper Adams University, a LEAF Innovation Centre, will examine strategies to monitor animal behaviour and what this can tell us in terms of disease risk and time-saving opportunities.  Andrew Francis from Elveden Farms, a LEAF Demonstration Farm, will highlight his work on the wide range of vegetable crops grown at Elveden, bringing a whole new level of complexity and required precision when applying new technology to individual and often specialist crops. Greater precision around pesticide application and disposal will also be discussed by Alice Johnston from Bayer, also a LEAF Innovation Centre, as well as some of their new developments.

Precision and continual assessment and improvement is an integral part of a good Integrated Farm Management system and technology offers opportunities for greater accuracy here.

Robotics

In recent years’ robotics and autonomous machines have become areas of interest in farming gaining significant attention in the media.  Automated trackers follow pre-programmed routes and release chemicals at set times, reducing human error and improving on-farm management. These machines have the potential to help manage crops, save energy and reduce pollution and wastes.  Drones can be used to help measure the health of a crop and a field’s soil conditions. This information is then relayed to the farmer who can solve issues in crop or soil health accordingly for example only applying fertiliser in areas where it is needed.

LEAF is proud to be at the forefront of the development of IFM through our LEAF Network as well as our involvement in various UK and EU wide projects. Creating partnerships through projects and farming networks allows LEAF to lead the way to collaborative, innovative and effective solutions to current problems in agriculture and challenges of the future.  We look forward to exploring strategies to drive change in farming practices, the adoption of technology and the development of cutting edge innovations at our IFM Conference on the 25th May. For more information and to book your FREE place, please click here.

Our grateful thanks to Bayer and Fera for supporting this year’s IFM Conference.

Health and Safety on Open Farm Sunday

Andy Guy is Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East Midlands.  This will be Andy’s eleventh LEAF Open Farm Sunday and he remains just as excited about the event now as he was back in 2006.  Here, he shares some of his Health and Safety top tips. 

As I write this piece about Health and Safety on Open Farm Sunday, most hosts will be torn between topdressing and silage planning but there are important priorities that need your attention ahead of the big day.  Many farmers cite Health and Safety issues as the main reason they don’t participate and yet, with proper planning, this is something that can be overcome. That said, the safety of your visitors, helpers and staff on 11th June is your responsibility and thinking ahead now can save a lot of time later.  Here are some of my key pointers, but do read the H&S guidance given in LEAF’s Host Farmer Handbook.

Risk Assessment

Always a top priority. Risk assessments help you identify the hazards on your farm and work out how to minimise and control them. The aim is to find all the things that might cause harm to somebody and list them, along with the type of injury that might be inflicted. List what you already do to reduce the risk of injury or harm and work out whether it will be sufficient to protect your visitors. If you need to do more, then record the actions required, who will implement them and when.

One tip, which makes risk assessment easier for me is to find a friend to walk round your farm with you (my self-employed builder pal has proved most useful). A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful!  You’ll find a blank risk assessment form at the back of your Host Farmer Handbook and remember to give a copy of your completed risk assessment form to your helpers.

Insurance

You need to inform your insurers you are hosting an Open Farm Sunday event.  Most farm insurance policies cover you for Public Liability and many brokers will be happy to extend the cover to include Open Farm Sunday at no extra cost.  You need a minimum of £5 million public liability insurance (if you regularly host school visits you will probably need £10 million).

Hand washing facilities

If your visitors come into contact with farm animals, you need to provide hand washing facilities – running water (even better if you can manage warm running water), liquid soap and paper towels.  Refer to the industry code of practice here.  Please don’t think that the antibacterial wipes or gels are good enough, they do not meet the recommendations of the Health and Safety Executive and should only be used to reduce the risk whilst people make their way to the proper facilities.

Good, temporary hand washing facilities – running water, liquid soap and paper towels

Serving Food?

In the UK, food handlers do not have to hold a food hygiene certificate to prepare or sell food.  However, food handlers need to have knowledge of the basic principles of food hygiene.  The Food Standards Agency (FSA) offers advice online here which you must follow and I would recommend anyone handling food at your event watches the FSA’s 10 short food safety coaching videos (each approx 1 minute long).  Areas where food is served (as well as picnics) must be well away from livestock and have been free from livestock for three weeks prior to your event.  Ensure visitors wash their hands before eating.  LEAF has prepared some signs you can download, print and display to encourage handwashing.  My top tip is to talk to the WI who may be willing to help out with providing refreshments for a good cause like LEAF Open Farm Sunday.

First Aid

Having a qualified first aider on site does offer you peace of mind.  If you don’t have anybody in your team, consider talking to school teachers or scout leaders who are often qualified.  The other tip here is to be sure that all your helpers have the mobile number of your dedicated first aider.  It’s no good having someone on site if nobody can find them!

Other key points to consider

  • No-go areas, such as the grain bin and fertiliser store: Lock up.  Cordon off.  Keep visitors away.
  • If visitors can climb on static machinery: Remove keys.  Limit fuel in the tank.  Brakes on and use chocks.  Implements and loads on the floor.  Supervise if allowing people into the cab.
  • Livestock bio-security: The golden rule is ‘clean in, clean out’ and keep visiting stock separate from other stock.
  • Don’t forget to be aware of your personal safety: Keep your house, workshop, etc locked.  Be aware of anyone suspicious. Keep valuables locked away or supervised.

Cordon off any areas that could be hazardous

Getting the planning right now will mean that the day will run smoothly but, if you have any doubts about H&S, talk to your OFS Regional Coordinator – they have years of experience in organising and planning events.  Find your nearest OFS Regional Coordinator here and there is lots of H&S information to be found at www.farmsunday.org

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11th June 2017. To register your event and order FREE resources, go to: www.farmsunday.org or email: openfarmsunday@leafuk.org

 

From My Field To Your Fork: marketing the supply chain sustainability story

LEAF Board member, Richard Whitlock provides an overview of last week’s LEAF Marque Summit which brought together the food industry, farmers, policy makers and scientists to explore whether the food chain is doing enough to market its own sustainability achievements and aspirations… 

The LEAF Marque Summit hosted by Marks and Spencers, featured the launch of  LEAF’s fifth Global Impacts Report, Delivering More Sustainable Food and Farming. Once again, the growth in impact and awareness of the LEAF brand was recognised by the food industry, global growers and consumers, with some of the highlighted statistics being 367, 395 hectares of crop worldwide on LEAF Marque Certified businesses in 36 countries, 34% of all UK fruit and vegetables are grown by LEAF Marque certified businesses and 261,000 visitors to farms for Open Farm Sunday 2016.

LEAF Marque certified businesses across the globe delivering more sustainable food and farming

In her opening remarks, Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF, highlighted the increasing importance of public engagement, customer focus, knowledge implementation on farms, increased farm sustainability and accountability. Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager, gave more details of the Global Impacts Report.

Jonathon Porritt explores sustainability in the food supply chain

The key note speaker for the day was the well-known environmental campaigner, Jonathon Porritt. Speaking largely off-the-cuff, Jonathan impressed the delegates with his insightful, experienced and passionate values on the future of food production and conservation of the planet, while accepting the need to feed an ever growing, more affluent world population.

It is always good to hear from a practical farming proponent. We were honoured to receive an engaging and real-world insight from Simon Day of Worth Farms Ltd, a LEAF Demonstration Farm, who combine large-scale, intensive food production, with care for the biodiversity of their environment, measuring and lowering their carbon footprint and recycling waste, while continuing to increase output and improve quality.

Presentations were received from Emma Keller of WWF-UK and Tallulah Chapman of the Forest Stewardship Council.  Both these organisations are active in increasing awareness and implementation of sustainable sourcing, with the importance of brand recognition and consumer differentiation being highlighted.  Some key takeaway points from these papers were the hidden cost of cheap supplies and the convenience of consumers not wishing to understand more.

LEAF Marque Summit speakers (left to right): Quentin Clark, LEAF; Simon Day, LEAF Demonstration Farmer; Emmanuelle Hopkinson, M&S; Richard Whitlock, LEAF Board member; Tallulah Chapman, Forest Stewardship Council; Emma Keller, WWF-UK; Caroline Drummond, LEAF and Kathryn Green, LEAF

Emmanuelle Hopkinson, representing our hosts, Marks and Spencer, enlightened us on the sustainability sourcing activity in their supply chain. Marks and Spencer have an ambition to be the world’s most sustainable major retailer and Emmanuelle shared with us some of the successes and challenges they have  encountered so far.  M&S now recognise LEAF Marque as an approved Plan A provider of fresh produce production systems.

Finally, Quentin Clark, Director Business Collaboration at LEAF, gave a brief update on commercial progress with expanding the LEAF Marque brand across continents, farms, food brands and retailers.

Delivering More Sustainable Food and Farming: LEAF’s Global Impacts Report 2017, is available here.  Please take a few minutes to complete our on-line evaluation questionnaire here.  Your feedback is extremely valuable to us and will help us improve future editions as well as build upon our monitoring and evaluation activities.

Speaker presentations, photographs and commentary from this year’s LEAF Marque Summit are available here 

 

Open Farm Sunday and Me!

Polly Davies and her family manage Slade Farm a mixed organic tenant farm near Bridgend in Glamorgan, South Wales.  The farm has a small butchery and meat box delivery business, which supplies the local community with beef, lamb, pork and Mutton. Here she talks about helping people become ambassadors for locally produced food through Open Farm Sunday

We have been opening the farm for Open Farm Sunday for about ten years.  We get around 1000 people coming from right across South Wales. Opening the farm has made me realise that not many people know what farmers do or where their food comes from.  I think this year, with Brexit and the salad shortages, it is more important than ever to engage the general public in food and farming.

Engaging the public in food and farming is more important than ever

I really believe that giving people an insight into what we do and raising their awareness of the benefits of eating locally and seasonally, will help them become ambassadors for Welsh farming and food.  LEAF and the Open Farm Sunday team make opening much less daunting.  The Host Farmer Handbook, particularly the Risk Assessments included within it, take you through the potential Health and Safety issues in a very accessible way.

We are a working farm not a farm park so for a week before Open Farm Sunday, we focus on tidying up the farm to make it really visitor friendly!  We pull in help from our local  Scouts and Adventure Scouts groups, which is a great resource to draw on.  They also do a fantastic job supporting us with car parking and entertaining our visitors with additional activities.  I also rope in all our friends and family, as you cannot have too many volunteers!

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here

Drilling down into the science of soil

ARTIS provides training to growers, farmers and managers in the food supply chain to boost productivity through applying the latest agri-tech knowledge and research.  Earlier this year, they teamed up with LEAF and hosted a course at JSR Farming Ltd, a LEAF Demonstration Farm which introduced some of the farm’s soil management practices and included a farm tour led by Andy Morton, Assistant Arable Farms Manager at JSR Farms Ltd.  Here, Andy shares his thoughts on the day and how it has helped him put soil science into practice …

Over the last year, I had heard a lot about soil management from a structural and conditioning point of view. This course was different. What appealed to me was its focus on the science behind soil management – the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’.   I thought I knew quite a bit about soil but this took me to quite another level!   It really drilled down into the specifics, looking at the soil profile in terms of bacteria, fungi, microscopic species and how different cultivation systems effect the biological diversity of the soil.

Another key focus of the course was soil organic matter. As a business, we apply a lot of organic manure and it was great to get a more in-depth perspective on what benefits this has and how to optimise its use.  For example, we learnt how carbon provides energy for the soil biology to work off and how organic manure can improve the porosity of the soil by opening up structure.

The course really made me think about how we could target our organic manure applications more accurately and start to build a better picture of how our fields are performing through, for example, mapping particular zones in fields and correlating this with percentages of soil organic matter and yield data.   I have also been thinking about our cultivations and the importance of continually questioning whether we are doing the right thing.   For example, we talked about the environmental and cost benefits of a direct drilling system to maintaining the diversity of soil biology which could, in turn, reduce cultivations as the soil is much easier to manipulate.  This ‘attention to detail’ approach is all part of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management so it was good to focus in on specifics.

With some 90% of food produced globally being grown from the soil and two thirds of global food production lost to pests or disease, it is our job as farmers to ensure we protect, nourish and enhance this precious resource, now and for future generations.   I look forward to building on the insights, knowledge and expertise I gained from this hugely valuable training course.

LEAF provides practical guidance on sustainable soil management, based around the principles of Integrated Farm Management.  Click here to find out more.

ARTIS provide a range of training courses aimed at developing practical skills through to translating science and research into on-farm practices. Find out more here

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 800 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet.  The farm also hosts about 35 hectares of 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 the Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East of England.

One of the key things to remember when organising your event is how to make it memorable so that your visitors go away with a positive memory of their visit to your farm.  The general rule is that people remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 30% of what they see, but
  • 90% of what they say and do
  • 20 minutes is the average attention span of an adult, less for a child

So engaging visitors in a range of short activities is advised.  One idea is to run a little competition or game.  For example, fill some jars with seeds (wheat, barley, grass seed, clover etc), then have some plants growing in pots and display the foods that the crop produces.  The game is to match the seed to the plant to the food. It’s something for the kids to do with their parents help and probably grandma knows all the answers! My thought is that as long as people make an effort they get a prize, it could be a lollipop, sticker, pen, key ring, it works for kids of ALL ages. This is a great way of breaking the ice and to start a conversation about crops and the foods they produce.

Virtually everyone loves sitting on tractors and machinery. The other thing that kids of all ages like is a spot the difference competition. Instead of two photos, why not have two real tractors! If you ask someone nicely it may be possible to have two tractors virtually the same. It could be simple things like take a light off or remove the toolbox. This gives people the chance to really look at the tractor rather than just sitting in it and you get lots of questions – What does this bit do? What it this for? We found that some spotted the simple differences but others noticed there was a wrong colour washer used underneath the mud guard. The point is that it is not just sitting on a tractor and if you have made an effort you get a lollipop!

Spot the difference tractor competition appeals to kids of all ages

There is nothing worse than a person standing behind a table with a banner and a few leaflets. It can be intimidating for people on both sides; so as a visitor with children, how do you make conversation?  Is it interesting for me?  For my 2 year old?  For my 6 year old?  And how do I break the ice?

Share the magic of farming this Open Farm Sunday!

So often I have been on visits to other businesses where people tell you about how many widgets they produce, how many million man hours they use but rarely do I find out what they actually do. Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, think about what will interest them and, more importantly, what they are likely to remember next week, next year.

  • Use facts that are memorable to adults and children. For example, 1 square metre of wheat could produce 1kg = 1 loaf of bread. NOT ‘we get a yield of 10t/ha which makes 10 000 loaves of bread’. What does a tonne look like? What is a hectare and 10 000 loaves would make me sick!
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms so explain what you mean when you say ‘the cows are served’ or ‘the barley is drilled’ and explain who and what is LEAF – the organisers of Open Farm Sunday
  • Use props, if talking about silage, stand next to some or have some in a large bucket so your visitors not only hear and see but also smell and feel. If you are explaining part of a cycle or system like how you make hay, if the machines are not to hand, why not get some toy tractors to show the process.  Simply use a white board to show the life cycle of a sheep flock (it works for school teachers).
  • Can your visitors hear you? Consider getting a microphone or simply manage the group size.

Use props and talk about farming in ways that children and adults will remember

To help farmers and others get better at sharing their experiences, there are lots of tips and ideas on the Open Farm Sunday website.  Another great resource is a website called Farming is Magic which is a collection of short films that give lots of tips and techniques on how to make your presentation more memorable. Have a look for yourself here www.farmingismagic.co.uk

So when you have registered your Open Farm Sunday, you are preparing your event, you have cut some grass, swept the farm from the sheds to the stables, banners are up, handed out invites, developed a car park with an elaborate one way system.  First car arrives. It’s the June 11th Open Farm Sunday is GO!

Please don’t TELL your visitors… engage them:

SHARE your farm

SHARE your experiences

SHARE what it’s like throughout the year

SHARE the life of your crops and your animals

And good luck sharing some of the magic in farming!

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

Open Farm Sunday In Scotland

jane-craigie-marketing-055-002-new-2017-rebecca-imageRebecca Dawes took on the role as LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator in January 2014. Rebecca lives in Kinross, Scotland on the family farm which comprises of beef, sheep and a little arable. The family moved to the farm in 2013 after selling their farm in England.  This will be the 10th year that they have hosted a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event and here Rebecca shares with us her experiences 

Our family have been involved with Open Farm Sunday nearly from conception, with events ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. But every year it gives us a different experience and the excitement of the visitors certainly makes it all worthwhile.  Having packed up our machinery and livestock and moved 400 miles, north from Oxfordshire, this year will be our third event here in Scotland, so we are all hoping for a nice sunny day on 11th June!

I’m convinced more people would buy home-grown produce if they could visit their local farm and see where their food comes from, and Open Farm Sunday is the perfect opportunity.

Help and Support at Hand

QMS_Open_Farm_AR

Opening your gates for Open Farm Sunday is great for any size farm – you can plan your event to fit around you and your farm.  Fear not, help and support is always on hand. Apart from the brilliant resources you can order from the LEAF Open Farm Sunday website there are many local groups, organisations and clubs that are pleased to come and give you a hand, this spreads the workload making holding such an event less daunting.

We involve the local Scottish Young Farmers Club who help with the car parking.  We are also lucky in having a Kinross Local Event organisation who take over the responsibility of teas and coffee – in your area a Women’s Institute or local Scouts/Guides group or similar, will I am sure help. This then leaves you to concentrate on the farming element.

Think of all the jobs you do in a day or week and although you may not think they come under the category of fun or interesting, you will be amazed to see the positive reaction from visitors.  For the public, who have never seen sheep being weighed through a handling system, tags put in ears or even feet being trimmed, this is a whole new world and gives a fascinating insight into farming.

Sharing our Farming Story

Here are a few more examples of how we share the farming story on the day:

Sheep/Wool – This is the main enterprise on our farm, a lop1040628-rebecca-dawescal lad comes in and shears some sheep and another farmer gives a running commentary explaining the process and getting the visitors involved in touching the fleece/wool and interacting with a board where people write up anything made from wool – you will be amazed at the suggestions! People can watch spinning and weaving enthusiasts take the fleece and convert it into something in front of their eyes.

Arable or Grassland – Nothing is nicer on a dry day than going for a walk around a field, or if your farm does not have arable crops, perhaps ask your local corn merchant to set up a stand with samples of different crops; he can then explain what it is used for, from animal feeds to our everyday breakfast products. Run a simple competition to guess how many acres of corn converts into a certain number of packs of breakfast cereal – the host farmer handbook has some mini-field statistics for you to use. People love a challenge and a local supermarket might give a voucher or hamper as a prize.

Milking – We do not milk cows at our farmp1040624-rebecca-dawes but we borrow a life-size fibreglass milk cow and set this up in one of the barns; children and adults can sit on the stool and milk the cow; we ask a local dairy farmer or one of his family to come along and tell the milk story

Woodland/Environment – Arrange a small walk or tour; either put up information posters at significant points or ask a few experts to give talks about what visitors can see or take groups around.

Horticulture – Whether it is fruit and vegetables or growing herbs and plants there is always a story to tell.

The star of the day is you!  People just want to talk to a farmer or grower, sometimes ask questions and find out a little more of what goes on behind those closed gates.  So, if your farm has all or some of the above and attracts a couple of hundred visitors, or maybe you have a polytunnel growing herbs which appeals to twenty people, just remember, your visitors will have a smile on their faces – just like you.

A Word About Safety

box-tt-j-deere-small-rowley-farm-2012Safety will no doubt be the number one topic on your list to sort. Just take a walk on the same route visitors will go, take a family friend with you, two eyes are better than one, it is not as frightening as you may have first thought. Make sure all machinery you don’t want visitors to see is parked in barns or away from public access.  This also applies to those odd rolls of barbed wire or equipment that potentially might cause an accident or someone could harm themselves.  Lock any shed you do not want the public to access, a cheap padlock is all it takes to make the area out of bounds.  It’s all common sense and the Host Farmer Handbook has lots of information and a template risk assessment form you can use.

Have a great day, smile and enjoy – remember to encourage as many others as you can to be involved – what is it that they say about ‘many hands make light work …’

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

Publicity for your Open Farm Sunday event

jo-north-image1-reduced

Jo North and her family are third generation tenants of a farm in the South Downs National Park, and they regularly host Open Farm Sunday events. The farm is just shy of 1,000 acres – mixed dairy and arable, with small beef and sheep enterprises; their milk is sold to Tesco, via Arla.  Jo is LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South East and here she considers publicity for Open Farm Sunday events.

For many farmers, their biggest worry is either not having enough visitors or being overrun by too many people on the day.  The weather plays an important part and will undoubtedly impact on visitor numbers, but one thing which is in your control is publicity and how you promote your event.

So for me there are two key parts to publicizing and promoting your event:

  • Promoting your event to get the number of visitors you want, plus
  • Being clear about what visitors can do at your event so that they come prepared!
j-holt-ofs

Be clear about what visitors can expect at your event

Last year, 22% of Open Farm Sunday visitors had never been on a farm before – so what is obvious to you and me, may be fairly alien to your visitors! If your main event activity is a farm walk which is likely to be muddy, ask visitors to come ready to walk, know to wear wellington or walking boots, and to come with sun tan cream or waterproofs!

Start at the end!

It sounds strange, but the best way to tackle publicity is to first decide what you want to achieve:  how many visitors do you want; where they might come from; and how you are going to reach them.  Once sorted, then you can plan your communications accordingly.

FREE resources

Thanks to the national Open Farm Sunday sponsors, LEAF is able to produce a range of resources for you to promote your event.  Order them free of charge via the website www.farmsunday.org – you will need to log in to the system to place an order.

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Tailor your publicity to the scale of event you are organising

Size is everything!

You will need to adapt your publicity to the scale of event you are organising.

Small events:  If you want to host a very small event for a select group of people, opt to ‘hide’ your event so it does not appear on the Open Farm Sunday website.  Order the FREE Open Farm Sunday postcards which you can use to personally invite friends, neighbours, local interest groups, parish councillors, etc. Ask people to RSVP to give you an idea of how many people will attend.

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Use local networks to promote your event

Medium sized events:  Promote your event in the parish magazine, on village websites. Order FREE Open Farm Sunday A5 flyers and A4 posters to overprint with your event details and distribute locally. Use local networks such as the Scouts, WI, Rotary Club, conservation groups, etc.  Contact local primary schools and ask if you can provide promotional text to go in the school e-newsletter to parents or if they will put an event flyer into each child’s school book bag.

Larger events:  You will need to start early and carry out plenty of promotional activity. Use the Open Farm Sunday flyers and posters and distribute them widely.  Promote your event in local ‘What’s on guides’.  Adapt the template press release and distribute it with a great ‘on farm’ photograph to local and regional newspapers and magazines, your regional TV and radio stations.  Put up Open Farm Sunday road-side banners a couple of weeks before the event.  Use social media to reach out to local communities and spread the word.

Make sure you do enough!

As a general rule, invite twice as many people to get the numbers you want.

A clear event description

When promoting your event on posters, websites, etc, give visitors a clear idea of what to expect.  They will want to know what they can see and do on the farm. If refreshments will be available or if they can bring a picnic.  If dogs are welcome or not.  Whether your event is wheelchair friendly.  Will there be any charges or is the whole event free.  Most importantly, if it rains will the event go ahead and how much will be under cover.

Of course, don’t forget to use some marketing flair:  a farm walk can be packaged as a ‘Farm Safari’!  A fun photograph of a cute animal will appeal to many.

Planning

Don’t forget some publicity tactics require long lead times, such as adding an entry to a ‘What’s on’ guide in a monthly magazine, or getting a feature into a parish magazine.  Other activities are more immediate – it can take minutes to set up a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and you can tap into the power of social media to swiftly have your event promoted, shared and liked by hundreds of people.  It is conceivable that if you unwittingly post something that is far more of a draw than you imagined, you could end up with more people than you bargained for.  However, in my experience this has never happened – but consider what you post before clicking ‘post’!

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

 

Getting started with LEAF Open Farm Sunday

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Doing LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time can seem daunting.  But it doesn’t need to be. With a bit of planning, help on the day and support from LEAF, opening your farm to visitors can be hugely rewarding.  Philip Gorringe, OFS regional co-ordinator for the West Midlands and experienced host farmer explains more…

In the cold light of January, while the memories of mince pies and mistletoe are fading, the decision to register the farm for Open Farm Sunday can feel something of a challenge.  Farms rarely look their best at this time of year and mine is no exception.  However, starting to plan the day and putting my thoughts in order soon combats the doubts.

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Farms come in all shapes and sizes. With some basic planning all are suitable for a public visit.

For me, collaboration is the key tool in clarifying what needs addressing and how. By talking to other farmers and friends, some of whom have opened their farm successfully before, my confidence is soon restored.  My perception that everyone else’s farms are brand new, perfectly manicured examples of model farmyards is soon dispelled. Farms come in all shapes and sizes and the vast majority are, with some basic planning, entirely suitable for a public visit.

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Collaboration is key to a successful Open Farm Sunday event

In my experience, the two most common anxieties seem to be health and safety and ‘Will I be overwhelmed with visitors?’.  I find it helpful to remind myself that Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity for the public to visit my farm on my terms rather than theirs.  Although it is important to keep visitors safe, we all have areas on the farm that we would rather they don’t see or are impossible to make safe.  My ‘in stock’ spare machinery, (some may say scrap), is unsightly and potentially hazardous if people had access to it.  My chemical shed and workshop are not ideal and my concrete yard should have been completely resurfaced ten years ago.

However, it is perfectly acceptable to restrict the areas that visitors have access to.  I have found that they are not necessarily expecting the ‘brochure’ farmyard, they are just keen to hear my story about my farm.  They fully realise it is a working environment, not designed in the first instance for public access.

I also find the impetus that Open Farm Sunday gives me to instigate some tidying up is a positive one.  Remember also that while the farm can look a bit glum in January, by June it is green and hopefully with a sunny day, the whole outlook is changed.  In my experience, some time and thought is very well spent in planning food, hygiene and the order in which people are directed around the farm.  The guidelines provided by LEAF make this easy and inexpensive.  Again, I have found collaboration to be key; by getting the local WI to provide teas and cake for charity, I fully complied with legislation and raised some money for a local good cause.  Engaging friends and neighbours to help with parking, contingency plans and so forth all help to spread my workload on the day.

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Organise your Open Farm Sunday event to suit you and your farm

In terms of the fear of being overwhelmed with visitors, I talked to other host farmers and OFS staff and found their knowledge and experience invaluable. LEAF’s Host Farmer Handbook is full of useful information on the right level of promotion for the number of likely visitors.  I was able to arrange contingencies for parking and traffic to give me a reasonable margin of error and talking to others, reminded me that  problems in this area are extremely rare and really only apply to TV celebrities!

My insurance company were very supportive and also had a wealth of helpful information as did most of our suppliers and contacts who were keen to help and offer advice and experience.

Overall, my main piece of advice to anyone doing Open Farm Sunday for the first time is: start small and organise your event to suit you and your farm.  Then give yourself time and space to enjoy the experience. By accepting help from others, I found I thoroughly enjoyed telling my own story to people who were fascinated by my world without having to worry whether the cake had run out or someone had mislaid their car keys!

ofs-colour-2017-datedOpen Farm Sunday is on the 11th June 2017. Register here to find out more and get involved and tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

About the author:

Philip runs the family farm in west Herefordshire. The farm specialises in herbage, cereal and vining pea seed production and has a herd of single suckler beef cattle. Philip’s wife Heather runs a mail order birdseed (all supplied and packed by the farm) and ancillaries business, Wiggly Wigglers together with a mail order florist, The Great British Florist, supplying UK grown flowers only, some of which are grown on the farm.