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.
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.
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.
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: www.farmsunday.org or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find a farm that’s open near you click here