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!

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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


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