Bottoms-Up: Innovative Farmers and Speak Out


Alice Midmer, LEAF Projects Coordinator

Promoting and enabling farmers that are Innovative and Communicative are two big details that form part of LEAF’s ‘bottom-up’ approach to delivering more sustainable farming.  LEAF’s Projects Coordinator, Alice Midmer explains more …  

If you have heard Caroline Drummond speak you may well have a) seen the photo below (it’s her favourite) and b) will hopefully remember it as a visual representation that, here at LEAF, we love a bottom-up approach! But what does this really mean?

Bottoms up

LEAF’s ‘bottoms up’ approach to delivering sustainable farming

In theory, and according to all-knowing Google, the definition of a bottom-up approach is as follows: ‘The bottom-up of an approach to a problem is one that begins with details and works up to the highest conceptual level.’

If we take ‘more sustainable farming’ as our ‘highest conceptual level’ then two of the most recent projects I have been working on are fantastic examples of ‘the details’.

The first is our involvement with Innovative Farmers. We are really pleased to be partners in the new and exciting Innovative Farmers programme. Many of the best ideas come from farmers who trial, test and analyse on their own farms. We know that LEAF farmers are often at the very cutting edge of this technical development and we are keen that these results are captured and harnessed to enable others to benefit and the industry as a whole to move forward.

Innovative Farmers is a not-for-profit network that matches farmer groups with some of the UK’s best research teams. It provides professional support, a web portal where groups share their learning, and access to a dedicated research fund. At the heart of the network are ‘field labs’, where farmers meet in small groups to test and develop new ways of tackling a shared problem or opportunity. Until 15th December, there is an early bird discount to join and following this, all LEAF members will continue to receive a discounted membership. Click here to register as a LEAF member.

Innovative FarmersInnovative Farmers is an exciting network and a great opportunity to join-up and optimise the output from research happening all over the country. Farmer led research and learning is not new however, and has been at the heart of LEAF since its inception, through the LEAF Demonstration Farm network. As well as innovation and Integrated Farm Management, good communication skills are crucial to the LEAF Demonstration Farm network. In this vein, LEAF developed the Speak Out communications training package a number of years ago to help develop and enhance farmers’ communication skills.

This autumn, Speak Out was back. The sessions saw both new and established LEAF Demonstration Farmers gather in the sunny cart shed at LEAF Demonstration Farm, Crowmarsh Battle Farms for a refresher training day with the ever enthusiastic Susie Emmett of Green Shoots Productions Ltd.

Good communication is imperative and innovative farmers need to have all the tools in the box to spread their messages to other farmers, the industry and consumers alike.

Speak Out

LEAF’s Speak Out training: developing and enhancing farmers communication skills

Farmers and representatives from nine different LEAF Demonstration Farms took part in a fantastic day that ranged from ‘planning a presentation that packs a punch’ to ‘movie making with messages that matter’. ‘Making the most of your online presence’, ‘harnessing the power of social media’ and ‘taking farm visits to the next level’ were also covered in a jam packed day.

Attendees included established LEAF Demonstration Farmers, keen to refresh their skills, pick up tips from other farmers as well as learn more about newer and increasingly important avenues of communication. Newer recruits at larger LEAF Demonstration Farms also attended to develop skills to help them better communicate their farm’s message to the wider community.

All appreciated the importance of staying engaged and up-to date with different communication methods and how and why to make best use of them. From my point of view, any opportunity of getting LEAF Demonstration Farmers together always makes for an inspiring day and this was no exception.

With this in mind, part of LEAF’s contribution to the Innovative Farmers programme will be Speak Out training. The partners recognise that effective communication from the coordinators and researchers will be an important component of the success of Innovative Farmers. Ready communication from the farmers involved along with a willingness to share challenges and problems will ensure the programme contributes to the progress of the industry as a whole.

So there you have it: Promoting and enabling farmers that are Innovative and Communicative are two big details that form part of LEAF’s bottom-up approach to delivering more sustainable farming.

Creating Sustainable Diets and Food Systems

‘When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.  When diet is correct, medicine is of no need’ Ayurvedic Proverb


Caroline Drummond MBE, LEAF Chief Executive

Caroline Drummond MBE, Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) carried out a Nuffield Scholarship during 2014 exploring ‘What farmers can learn from science to improve the nutritional value of our food?’ Here she explains more about the role of sustainable food systems in improving health and nutrition.

The agricultural systems that have been built up over the past few decades have contributed greatly to alleviating hunger and raising living standards; they have served the purpose, but only up to a point.

In the UK, the traditional public health challenges of under nutrition and unsafe food and water have been largely replaced by the risks of poor diet. As a nation, young and old, we over consume foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and do not eat enough fruit, vegetables, fibre and oily fish. This type of diet underlies many of the chronic diseases that cause substantial suffering, ill health and premature death.


Our current food system is largely driven by economic demand and production, not nutritional goals

Our current food system is largely driven by economic demand and production, not nutritional goals.  Thus, to be successful in the future, we will require agriculture systems that focus as much attention on addressing economic demand and production, as they do on meeting nutritional goals. This will help address the growth in dietary related diseases across the globe by improving the nutritional value of food and providing new opportunities for farmers to benefit, both in the field and in the market place.

There are a wealth of new developments in the food we eat and while attempting to manage obesity drains the NHS budgets, the health food market grows with quick solutions to undo our excesses, high protein drinks, new diets, the list goes on.  Indeed, Coca-Cola have recently launched their ‘Fairlife’ high value, high protein milk and globally, some $68 billion is spent annually on vitamin tablets alone!


Some $68 billion is spent annually on vitamin tablets alone

Furthermore the ‘health by stealth’ approach to fresh and processed foods is growing.  This will offer short term solutions, but in the long term, the farming industry needs to get smart and takes centre stage in more integrated discussions across government departments including the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs,  the Department of Health and the Department of Education.


New opportunities through enriched diets for livestock

Whether it be new breeding approaches in crops to enhance nutritional features or enriched diets for livestock to increase Omega 3 content, there are certainly new opportunities on the horizon to embed health as a core part of sustainable food and farming. This is where LEAF’s work will become increasingly more important.  In the short term, we need to focus on improving soil health through Integrated Farm Management, engaging consumers in how their food is produced and where it comes farm through Open Farm Sunday as well as supporting farmers in the market place with LEAF Marque.


Engaging consumers in how food is produced is key to improving health and nutrition

Food and nutrition is the bed-rock of society – we need to develop the building blocks that connect health, well-being, nutrition, farming and education, creating sustainable diets and food systems that are underpinned by the need to improve health and nutrition. The investment in reducing the burden of those dietary related diseases will have high returns. Feeding a world without nourishing it at the same time is not sustainable.

The future is not about producing more food. It is about more of the right food where health is embedded as a value when we buy it – after all, in reality, every food we produce on farm is a super food – it is managing our diet around it that we need to challenge.

Click here to download Caroline’s full Nuffield Scholarship report.  She will also be talking about the issues on this week’s Countryfile programme to be aired at 6.15pm on BBC One, Sunday 25th October 2015. 


Bats and Owls at Balruddery

Euan at Potatoes In Practice 1

Euan Caldwell, Head of Farms, Field and Glasshouse Facilities at the James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton Institute is a LEAF Innovation Centre that is committed to promoting and developing Integrated Farm Management at their sites in Scotland. Euan Caldwell is Head of Farms, Field and Glasshouse Facilities and here he tells us a bit more about the bats and owls that have taken up residence at the Balruddery Site near Perth.

Here at Balruddery we installed a number of bat boxes in 2009 as mitigation for the lost bat roosts in the old byre (the old stone steading at Balruddery was knocked down in 2009). Originally 20 boxes were installed – 5 each of four types. We lost one last winter when it was blown down and destroyed. Last year we moved three boxes to the gully near Balruddery Den – these were ones which had never been used in their original locations.


Bat boxes are checked twice a day

The bat boxes are checked twice annually by David Dodd from David Dodds Associated who is licensed to do so. David checks the boxes to try to identify droppings to establish whether the boxes are in use and clear them of any debris: droppings, old birds’ nests etc. so that the boxes remain usable. To date we have found both Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats in the boxes. The byre was also used by a shyer species: Natterer’s Bats and I’m hopeful they may move into the boxes eventually.

Bats at Balruddery

Both Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats have taken up residence at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Site near Perth

The boxes are usually used through the summer by individual male bats, waiting for the autumn breeding season. The females spend the summer in large maternity groups, rearing their young. In the autumn the males set up territories around small roosts and call females, gathering a “harem” of females. We often find these groups in the boxes in autumn. Last autumn there was evidence of a lot of activity in one of the boxes and David suggested it may have been used as a maternity roost, though it’s hard to be sure.

The Tawny Owl is one of bats’ main predators and is capable of taking one in flight in complete darkness. We have had Tawny Owls nesting for the last three years at Balruddery Farm in a nest box we put up ourselves on the eastern fringes of the farm. In years one and two there were two owlets and it was very entertaining to watch them “branch” at dusk, a term used to describe their early attempts at using their wings (jumping from branch to branch) and being fed by the adults who could be seen roosting in a nearby tree during the day.

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This year there was only one owlet who was particularly adventurous!

This year there was only one owlet who was particularly adventurous! Owlets regularly fall / glide out of their trees during the “branching” stage but they usually manage quite easily to clamber back up into the tree and I have seen this happen several times. However, as this year’s baby was an only child, it seemed to have no incentive to return to the same tree it started from and I struggled to keep up with its movements. I became very familiar with the little squeaks that it made as dusk approached and found it in random trees, in a hedge row, crouching on top of a dyke and once on the main road! But I lost track of it before it properly fledged. It was well attended by the parents and was well fed. It grew at a faster rate than the owlets from previous years and I have no doubt that it made it to adult hood

Our Owls are very entertaining to watch but their presence is also a healthy sign that the habitats we have helped to create, our hedge rows, field margins and beetle banks are sustaining a healthy and productive food chain that enables a top predator like a Tawny Owl to make its home at Balruddery.

Farming and a thriving bird population in peaceful coexistence?

Alice Johnston

Alice Johnston, Bayer Crop Science

Bayer CropScience is a LEAF Innovation Centre, proudly investigating and demonstrating Integrated Farm Management (IFM) at their two research farms in South Cambridgeshire. They have been monitoring the farmland wild bird populations for over 12 years and here, Alice Johnston explains a bit more about how birds are monitored on farm and some of the measures put in place to promote them.

We hear a lot about the apparent decline in farmland bird populations, and how intensive agriculture is clearly the reason for their demise. And it is always difficult to determine the effect of anything that you do to improve things on an individual farm since birds can and do fly both in and out of a specific area. Of course, that should not stop farmers and growers from trying and Bayer’s research farms having been trying to make a difference and seeing what happens as a result. Attention to detail is a critical part of Integrated Farm Management and one we take very seriously at Bayer.

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Attention to detail is a key part of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management

At our research farms in South Cambridgeshire we have been monitoring our farmland wild bird populations for over 12 years. Despite national surveys suggesting that farmland bird species are in decline, it is encouraging to see our populations on the rise. Bayer has always taken a proactive role in promoting the biodiversity on our farms and it is reassuring to see that these activities are showing positive results. Last year, for example, we saw an excellent year for owls and our butterfly and moth populations are looking very healthy.

Since 2006 we have been enrolled in the Entry Level Stewardship scheme. In the end, this land is being used for a purpose but, by following the guides promoted in the scheme, we have been able to manage the farms to a high conservation standard in addition to fully utilising them for our research purposes.

Barn Owls at ringing

Owl, butterfly and moth populations are thriving due to extensive measures to promote on-farm biodiversity

Across both sites we have adopted a positive hedgerow management scheme, trimming on rotation in the winter and re-establishing native species. This not only gives protection and a nesting site for many bird species but also a vital food supply throughout much of the year.

Our Shelford site has an extensive network of beetle banks – earth ridges at least 2m wide and 0.5m high. Many of the beetle banks have pollen, nectar and grass strips alongside them, creating an ideal habitat for small mammals and insects. For overwintering birds we have wild bird seed mixtures at different sites around the farms as well as some winter stubble and areas of historical woodland. All these areas provide food sources and shelter for a variety of wildlife.

Yellow Hammer 8

Healthy growth in bird populations at Bayer’s two research farms in South Cambridgeshire

These measures have meant a healthy growth in our bird populations. Of the 19 species used to calculate the Farmland Bird Index, we have had 17 of these species across our two sites throughout the 12 years. The most encouraging population increases recorded were: Skylark, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Linnet, Reed Bunting and Starling which have all doubled in population since 2002.

Bayer CropScience is one of a number of LEAF Innovation Centres across the UK that research or pioneer new approaches in sustainable land management.

The Woodland Trust working for sustainable farming

Helen Chesshire

Helen Chesshire, Senior Advisor, The Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust joined LEAF as a corporate member last year.  Helen Chesshire, Senior Advisor at the Woodland Trust explains more about the Trust, why it supports LEAF and the wider benefits of trees on UK farmland.

Tell us a bit more about The Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity.  It looks after more than 1,000 woods covering 190 square kilometres.  The Trust aims to protect, restore and create new native woodland cover across the UK, which is one of the least wooded in the whole of Europe.

Why has The Woodland Trust joined LEAF

The Trust wishes to create healthy, resilient and wildlife-rich wooded landscapes and with 70% of the land in the UK managed for agricultural production it means that the farming sector is key to helping us achieve this. As the leading organisation promoting sustainable farming and food, LEAF was an obvious partner.   We are hoping to work with LEAF to help raise awareness of the role of trees on UK farmland as well as to demonstrate best practice and encourage farmers to value, preserve and protect their trees and woodlands for conservation benefits.

sheep in the peak district

The farming sector is key to helping The Woodland Trust create healthy, resilient and wildlife-rich woodland

We have worked with David Rose, LEAF Marque farmer in Nottinghamshire to create a silvoarable scheme in a bid to nourish his soils, improve crop yield, attract pollinators, encourage local wildlife and create an additional source of produce.  We would welcome an opportunity to work with other LEAF farmers who are interested in increasing tree cover on their farms.

What does Integrated Farm Management [sustainable farming] mean to the Woodland Trust?

IFM Wheel - words - small - png

The nine sections of Integrated Farm Management (IFM)

As a whole farm business approach IFM delivers more sustainable farming systems which in turn can help create a more resilient landscape.  Trees are a cost effective tool that can deliver a wide range of services on farms to help achieve this whilst also delivering important services for the wider environment.  For example, a shelter belt can improve crop water efficiency which has been proven to increase wheat yields by 3.5% – more in dry years.  It can also provide shelter in cold, wet and windy weather reducing the incidence of neonatal lamb losses. They can also help provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife and aid movement of species as they seek to adapt to the changing climate.

Similarly, narrow strips of trees along contours or waterways can protect soils from erosion by increasing the water infiltration rates of the soil, reducing surface water runoff and damage from poaching.  But they can also help improve water quality by trapping agricultural pollutants before they enter water courses.  Planting up unproductive areas or awkward corners can improve the management of the farm; provide a sustainable source of on-farm firewood as well as a valuable wildlife habitat.

Windbreak - geograph - credit to Mr Hugh Venables

Trees are a cost effective tool that can deliver a wide range of services on farms
Image kind permission of Huge Venebles

Why trees are good for your farming business

The last few years have proved very difficult for farmers with unprecedented challenges from both drought and floods.  Climate change models predict that extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent, so finding ways to mitigate the effects is becoming increasingly urgent.  Research shows that managing existing trees and planting additional trees in the right place can help farms become more resilient, and more cost effective.  From simple hedgerow plantings to fully integrated agroforestry systems, trees can help address a range of issues affecting sustainable production by contributing to shade, shelter, water and pollution management, reducing soil erosion, pollination, Integrated Pest Management and product diversification.

How can initiatives like Open Farm Sunday help in raising public awareness of the importance of trees and woodland?

The Woodland Trust aims to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. All our woods are freely open to the public and we run a wide range of free events including community tree planting days, guided walks, bush craft and much more.    We know from experience that the simple act of planting a tree can stay with a child forever opening their eyes to the importance of nature.  So we know that initiatives such as Open Farm Sunday are very effective in helping people to understand and value the food our farmers produce and the environment that supports it.  Trees conjure up an image of beauty, power and longevity; highlighting the role they play in sustainable farming systems can only help to ensure future generations appreciate the balance required between an increasing global demand for food and recognition that the natural (farmed) environment is fundamental in supporting ecosystem services such as clean and plentiful water as well as food production.

Walk - OFS175 - Jeremy Padfield talk under oak tree

Open Farm Sunday helps people understand and value the food our farmers produce

Tell us a bit more about how The Woodland Trust supports farmers to increase the number of trees on their farms?

The Woodland Trust is working in partnership with farmers across the country to study the effects of strategic tree planting on farms.  This includes help to plant shelter belts, riparian strips, pasture trees and small areas of woodland or to develop silvorable/pastoral schemes.

Our Woodland Creation Advisors can provide free advice and support providing a whole farm tree planting assessment, design of planting scheme and identification of potential funding support.   In return, we ask that you maintain the trees and allow us to monitor the effects on your farm for an agreed period of time.  The results will help us develop more UK based evidence and an opportunity to influence future agricultural policy.

For more information contact the WT on 0330 3335303, email at or visit

Open Farm Sunday: reaching out to our customers

Andy Mitchell

Andy Mitchell, M&S Agronomist

Andy Mitchell, M&S Agronomist  (soft fruit, top fruit, tropical and dried fruit and nuts) reflects on the 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday and his time at Castleton Fruit Farm just outside Aberdeen, meeting customers and explaining the story behind their food. 

So the tenth anniversary of Open Farm Sunday is over and the team at LEAF have worked so hard to make this the best yet.  Huge thanks also to our 15 M&S growers who opened their farms to tell their farming story.

Supporting our growers

Andy Mitchell 1

Supporting M&S growers to reach out to the public

I do love this event.   We at M&S are proud to be long standing sponsors, so in true fashion, I went along to support my local event.  This time, I left the cereals of Grantham for the hills and soft fruit of Castleton Fruit Farm farmed by Ross Mitchell, one of our key growers in soft fruit at M&S. For over 15 years, Ross and his family have supported M&S in producing the finest of berries, so it was a natural choice to make our way to just outside Aberdeen.

We got to Castleton farm bright and early on Sunday, the Saturday winds that battered the tents and tunnels had been a challenge but the team on site were still smiling.  The preparation was staggering – a bouncy castle, a tractor full of balloons, a table full of M&S goodies for a charity raffle and so much more including local food and of course, the wonderful farm shop and restaurant.

Engaging with our customers

Having been to a few Open Farm Sunday events now I was hopefully ready for what lay ahead!  Engaging with our customers to help them understand why farming is the most vibrant, exciting and tough industry to work in is so rewarding.  We had a huge mix of people coming to visit the M&S tent, tasting the different strawberry varieties grown on the farm.   It is always interesting to find out first-hand what the public thinks and it is never quite what you expect!

Andy Mitchell6

Explaining to the next generation how their food is grown is a huge privilege

We got loads of great questions about farming, soft fruit, Open Farm Sunday and M&S.  It was so evident that there is such a huge loyalty and love for growers and farmers.  This groundswell change has been significant and really the result of the work that LEAF and our farmers have delivered, great job to you all.  We at M&S have a huge sense of pride when we are able to get so much interaction with our growers and our customers. It is a huge privilege and indeed, our duty as retailers is to tell children about how a strawberry grows, why we need bees and that it takes just 60 days to grow a crop of berries!

So while the kids are busy painting, going on tractor tours, bouncing on the huge castle, it’s a chance to talk to the parents and older generation about the local community and, of course, the huge amount of workers needed to make farming happen.  This is the whole ethos behind Open Farm Sunday – to explain the realities of farming and dispel the myths.

Looking ahead to next year

After the warm glow of this year’s Open Farm Sunday, my thoughts turn to next year’s event on the 5th June.  M&S take huge pride in our growers wanting to take part in this event and we are already thinking about how we can make it even better for them as well as further supporting LEAF.  Our thinking caps are well and truly in place!

OFS-Colour-plain-datedNext year’s Open Farm Sunday is on the 5th June with Open Farm School Days taking place throughout June.  Click here to keep up to date with all the latest Open Farm Sunday news and if you went along to an Open Farm Sunday event this year, we would love to hear from you.  Complete our visitor survey here and our host farmer survey here

Tenth Open Farm Sunday celebrates record breaking year


Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive

Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) reflects on a record breaking 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday.

What a day!  The sun shone (on most of us!) and the crowds came flocking onto farms in their thousands!  Early estimates show that visitor numbers for Open Farm Sunday 2015 will be over 250,000 – far exceeding the record breaking attendance of 2014 by more than 15%.

Our tenth Open Farm Sunday has been a resounding success and a fantastic celebration of British farming and food. From the feedback received so far, it’s clear that Open Farm Sunday enabled hundreds of thousands of people to have an amazing day in the countryside, learning about farming and the story behind their food. We’re particularly delighted so many families took the time to visit farms up and down the country, many for the first time.

DSC_3264 from Michael Sly

Nearly 400 farms opened their gates for Open Farm Sunday. It is the farmers, their families, sponsors, the Young Farmers, the neighbours, others in the industry that we ALL owe a huge debt in helping raise the profile of why farming is great.

On behalf of all the LEAF team, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone involved. Some 400 farms opened their gates and it is the farmers, their families, sponsors, the Young Farmers, the neighbours, others in the industry that we ALL owe a huge debt in helping raise the profile of why farming is great.

Farmers do not often get a ‘thank you’ for all the hard work they do every single day to produce our food and manage the countryside.  I hope all the farmers that opened their gates will be heartened by the public support there is for farming and cherish some special memories. The faces of the children and the families who visited them on Open Farm Sunday, as well as the sheer joy and sense of awe in seeing the livestock, a calf being born or the size and price of the machinery, not to mention the many inquisitive questions.  Indeed, the only tears I saw were those of the children not wanting to go home!

IMG_8135 trailer wave MHS Farms Park Farm

Visitors came in their thousands for this year’s 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday

So a huge well done and thank you! Do take a moment to complete our host farmer feedback form so we can continue to build on the success we have achieved together.

Finally, as well as Open Farm Sunday, LEAF also organises Open Farm School Days, where farms are open for school visits throughout June – click here to find out more.

Next year’s Open Farm Sunday will take place on the 5th June 2016 so please put the date in your diary now and keep up with all the Open Farm Sunday news on our website and follow us on Twitter @openfarmsunday

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

David Jones

David Jones, Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East of England

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 and Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East of England.

So you have registered your Open Farm Sunday, 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 7th Open Farm Sunday is GO!

But what are you going to TELL your visitors, well don’t TELL them anything.

SHARE your farm

SHARE your experiences

SHARE what it’s like throughout the year

SHARE the life of your crops and your animals

David Jones 2

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 in 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 10000 loaves of bread’. What does a tonne look like? What’s 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
  • Use props, if talking about silage, stand next to some or have some in a large bucket so your visitors don’t 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

And good luck sharing some of the magic in farming on Open Farm Sunday on the 7th June!

Open Farm Sunday is farming’s national open day and takes place on the 7thJune 2015.  To find a farm near you go to: or email:

Promoting your Open Farm Sunday Event – collaboration is key

Phil Gorringe is a second generation farmer brought up in Herefordshire.  He farms Lower Blakemere Farm in West Herefordshire, a 1200 arable and beef farm.  Phil is the West Midlands Open Farm Sunday Co-ordinator and as a member of LEAF, he is an advocate of engaging the public through farm and school visits.  He is also involved in promoting farming through social media @FarmrPhil.   Phil has been involved with Open Farm Sunday since it first started in 2006.  Here he shares his suggestions on promoting your event and getting it noticed.

Phil Gorringe

Phil Gorringe, West Midlands Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator

In my experience, after health and safety, the promotion of your OFS event is the next most queried topic by host farmers.

Start at the end!

Before thinking about promoting your day, it is best to start at the end.  Decide how many people you would like to visit and then work backwards.  For most farmers, the fear is being overrun by visitors so this is an important decision.  It will be influenced by factors such as timing (morning events will normally attract fewer visitors), accessibility, facilities, attractions and possible contingency plans in the event of more people arriving than you expected.

Phil Gorringe 2

The best place to start to promote your event is at the end! Decide how many people you would like to visit and then work backwards

 Collaboration is key

Having decided on the size of event you want to run, there are a multitude of methods you can use to promote it.  For most farms, an attendance of 75 to 150 people is the norm.  Promotion for this sort of event will be predominantly local and in my experience is best achieved by your own local networks.

There are many possibilities here but for us, our vet, the local farm co-operative and our landlords agent were the best ones from the business.  Machinery dealers, auctioneers and contractors are also usually up for contributing.  On an individual level, a personal invitation via the local pub, village shop, the school, parish website always work well.  If you invite representatives from some of these groups to participate or help on the day, that will encourage them to promote your event themselves.  Remember to include groups such as the Scouts, Rotary Club, WI and local conservation groups.  Collaboration is the key and the most effective way to promote and run a successful OFS event.  Make use of the free resources provided by LEAF to help spread the work – distributing postcards, pinning up posters and displaying the OFS banner will really help to get your event noticed.  Order them here.


Open Farm Sunday is an industry wide initiative.  Working with others at a local level is the most effective way to promote your Open Farm Sunday event

Your event will be publicised nationally via the OFS website so it is important to put the correct information up to describe your event.  For example, if you happen to have a TV star lurking on the farm, be careful as this sort of thing can lead to unexpected numbers!   Having said this, it is of benefit to other OFS events for each one to promote the day on a broader stage.  Therefore, it is usually quite easy to get media coverage.  If you have someone who is good on the radio, contact your local station and get an interview in the week leading up to Open Farm Sunday.  Send a press release (you can download a template here and fill in your own details), preferably with a picture to your local paper.  Make it concise and interesting and they will be only too pleased to print it.  There’s lots of good advice on working with the media in the Host Farmer Handbook, sent free to all OFS host farmers when they register.

Embrace Social Media

The subject of social media always comes up at some point.  I am happy to embrace it with caution and we use Facebook and Twitter.  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’.  Also, it is always good to use photos – a picture is worth a thousand words.

Finally, it can be useful to try and get an idea of how many are intending to visit and one way to achieve this is to invite them to book in advance for a particular activity you may be running such as tractor and trailer rides.  The number who actually book will not reflect the actual attendance on the day, but it does give you an indication of the effectiveness of your promotion.

In summary, think about what would engage you when promoting your event – and address any concerns you may have and you will enjoy a stress free day taking part in the largest national event of public access to our farms.

Open Farm Sunday is farming’s national open day and takes place on the 7thJune 2015. To register your event and order FREE resources, go to: or email:  To find a farm that’s open near you click here

LEAF – basking in yellow and red!

LEAF has been truly awash with yellow and red recently.  Not post-election fallout but from the beautiful, vibrant colours of tomatoes and peppers grown on our two latest LEAF Demonstration Farms – Eric Wall Ltd and Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd who were officially launched yesterday and become LEAF’s first Demonstration Farms in the glasshouse sector.

Eric Wall Ltd Launch as a LEAF Demonstration Farm 13 May 15

Eric Wall Ltd is officially launched as a LEAF Demonstration Farm. Pictured left to right: Stephen Fell, LEAF Chairman; Chris Wall, Managing Director of Eric Wall Ltd; Mary Bosley; Richard Kooijman Production Manager at Eric Wall Ltd; Tracey Hughes General Manager at Eric Wall Ltd and Kathryn Mitchell, IFM Development Manager, LEAF.

Both businesses are world leaders in growing top quality tomatoes and peppers to the very highest standards of environmental care, through Integrated Farm Management (IFM) and join over 40 other LEAF Demonstration Farms throughout the UK, set up to demonstrate the principles and practices of IFM.

IFM Wheel - words - large

LEAF Demonstration Farms demonstrate the nine sections of Integrated Farm Management (IFM)

The addition of Eric Wall Ltd and Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd to the LEAF Demonstration Farm network will bring a hugely valuable insight into the practical application of IFM to commercial glasshouse growing. IFM is all about attention to detail, continuous improvement and optimising resources.


Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd welcomed as a LEAF Demonstration Farm. Pictured left to right: Mark Knight, Technical Crops Manager at Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd; Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive; Pippa Greenwood, gardening broadcaster; Andrew Burgess, LEAF Trustee and Gerard Vonk, General Manager, Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd.

Eric Wall Ltd and Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd are industry leaders in growing top quality produce through cutting edge technology, commitment to environmental sustainability and extensive programmes of research and development. The principles of IFM underpin both businesses – helping to guide decisions on ways to drive efficiency, reduce waste, manage water use and working with nature to optimise the unique ecosystem of the glasshouse environment.

LEAF Demonstration Farms are at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Eric Wall Ltd and Tangmere Airfield Nurseries will play a critical role in inspiring others in the food and farming industry as well as raising awareness amongst the public about how their food is grown to high standards of environmental care, recognised in store by the LEAF Marque.

7 Eric Wall Ltd LEAF Marque Tomatoes

LEAF Demonstration Farms play a critical role in raising awareness amongst the public about how their food is grown to high standards of environmental care, recognised in store by the LEAF Marque.

The official launch of both sites took place on Wednesday 13th May. Eric Wall Ltd was launched by Mary Bosley, Chair of the Horticulture Innovation Partnership and gardening broadcaster, Pippa Greenwood launched Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd.

Further information about Eric Wall Ltd is available here and Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd here.  If you are interested in visiting Eric Wall Ltd or Tangmere Airfield Nurseries Ltd or another LEAF Demonstration Farm, to learn more about Integrated Farm Management in practice, please click here or email: