Tamara Hall, Yorkshire and Humber Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, runs a 1,200 acre arable farm in East Yorkshire. She is passionate about giving children the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from and has been hosting visits for children for many years. She has been hugely instrumental in the development of Open Farm School Days, which began two years ago. Tamara tells us more about her Open Farm School Days events, how they are run and their many benefits.
We have been running visits to the farm for local school children for many years and involved in Open Farm School Days since the very beginning. We started with just the Friday before Open Farm Sunday as a way of publicising our Open Farm Sunday event and so increasing visitor numbers. We believed that the children would bring their parents back on the following Sunday and show them what they learnt. This worked and was definitely worth doing.
However, we quickly realised that the children were in a much better frame of mind for learning when in a school situation, rather than with their parents! As we don’t have a farm shop and are purely doing farm visits for educational purposes and community goodwill, we decided that our time was better spent doing more school visits and the following year we ran four days with nearly 1,000 children, parents and helpers visiting our farm.
The benefit of doing these visits alongside Open Farm Sunday is that we believe it helps to get the schools to visit us. Open Farm Sunday has been a massive success with a large public recognition of the brand. This trust in the quality of Open Farm Sunday helps the schools believe in the value of Open Farm School Days. By focusing our visits on one week of the year, we can ensure the farmyard is clean and tidy. We stop farm jobs from 10am-3pm each of these days and we feel this is safer than running visits throughout the year. Livestock is bought in for this week, allowing a much wider educational experience for the children as we are purely arable the rest of the year.
Many local farmers and people employed in local agriculture help on these days. Without them we would not be able to host these events. Apart from their valuable time, this is also essential as they are each experts in their own field and their enthusiasm for their industry is obvious and transferred to the children! Having the open days over a few set days makes it easier to ask our volunteers early in the year and I think this helps recruit help. Now we find the same people come back each year and know what they are doing so well that it has become pretty easy. As we have seven groups each day, each group only spends 20-30 minutes at each activity. As a farmer it is easy to keep a group interested for this length of time and allows each group of children to see seven different parts of UK Agriculture, from sheep to pigs, arable, wildlife management and more.
The best thing about Open Farm School Days now is that we get fantastic feedback and had all three days for this June fully booked by the middle of last September!
Another unexpected benefit to the business has been the networking side of the event. Our local John Deere reps (RBM) host the machinery activity and we have definitely got a better relationship with them following this. Gleadells Agriculture fund some of the coaches from disadvantaged areas and this led to me helping them with their new website, alongside better relations in grain marketing. Stuart Bradshaw, from our local Mill, Bradshaws, hosts the arable activity and we have now started selling our Hard Group 4 wheat to them, on an average spec contract at a better price than offered elsewhere. None of these business benefits would have come about without Open Farm School Days.
Open Farm School Days run throughout June. They provide thousands of school children with the opportunity to visit a farm to learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced. For more information and to get involved click here