In the first of a new fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, David Jones, Farm Manager at Morley Farms Ltd, explains why he does Open Farm Sunday and what he gets out of it. Subscribe to this blog to receive updates directly to your inbox!
I often hear people say “Open Farm Sunday, that sounds like a lot of work, and it’s alright if you have a farm shop or sell ice cream”. We only have fields of wheat, barley and oil seed rape – who wants to look at that? My reply is, wheat is one of the most important crops in the world, second only to maize (corn). It makes flour to go into bread, biscuits, and cakes. My crops of wheat are sold to feed livestock including chickens. Chicken meat is everywhere from a chicken sandwich at a petrol station, to the ‘Devonshire Roasted Chicken’ at The Ivy, Covent Garden. So what’s more relevant to everyone’s everyday lives than a field of wheat?
As a cereal farmer, typically the only money we spend on advertising/promoting the business is the 40 pence/tonne we send to HGCA . Most other businesses spend a lot of money on promotions every year. The cost of hosting an Open Farm Sunday event can be minimal especially if you get friends and neighbours to help. LEAF and other organisations have a whole range of resources to help hosts get started.
So often we find that the public perceptions and opinions of agriculture can be distorted. For example; by a children’s story book scene with a farm yard full of chickens, pigs, cows, horses and a farmer’s wife cutting the tails off blind mice with a carving knife. Farmers are the people putting mud on the road, responsible for the cloud of dust when you light the BBQ on a Sunday afternoon. Most Open Farm Sunday visitors are just interested to find out a bit more about where their food is grown. Typically, Open Farm Sunday events are free, it is a great place for a family to go on a Sunday without spending much money, but if they go home realising that it is virtually impossible to put a spoonful of sugar in their tea without seeing mud on the road or that being held up occasionally by a tractor makes it possible to have a chicken sandwich then Open Farm Sunday is very worthwhile.
Like everything we do it is always important that everyone and everything goes home in one piece. Considering the health and safety aspects of any event is very important however it needn’t be a large burden for a host farmer. The key is common sense. LEAF has lots of free information available to help but also insurance companies and/or NFU offer guidance for Open Farm Sunday hosts.
If you are still unconvinced about opening the gates of your farm for the public to visit then if nothing else it is a good excuse to have a great big tidy up.
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.