Rebecca Dawes took on the role as LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator in January 2014. Rebecca lives in Kinross, Scotland on the family farm which comprises of beef, sheep and a little arable. The family moved to the farm in 2013 after selling their farm in England. This will be the 10th year that they have hosted a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event and here Rebecca shares with us her experiences
Our family have been involved with Open Farm Sunday nearly from conception, with events ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. But every year it gives us a different experience and the excitement of the visitors certainly makes it all worthwhile. Having packed up our machinery and livestock and moved 400 miles, north from Oxfordshire, this year will be our third event here in Scotland, so we are all hoping for a nice sunny day on 11th June!
I’m convinced more people would buy home-grown produce if they could visit their local farm and see where their food comes from, and Open Farm Sunday is the perfect opportunity.
Help and Support at Hand
Opening your gates for Open Farm Sunday is great for any size farm – you can plan your event to fit around you and your farm. Fear not, help and support is always on hand. Apart from the brilliant resources you can order from the LEAF Open Farm Sunday website there are many local groups, organisations and clubs that are pleased to come and give you a hand, this spreads the workload making holding such an event less daunting.
We involve the local Scottish Young Farmers Club who help with the car parking. We are also lucky in having a Kinross Local Event organisation who take over the responsibility of teas and coffee – in your area a Women’s Institute or local Scouts/Guides group or similar, will I am sure help. This then leaves you to concentrate on the farming element.
Think of all the jobs you do in a day or week and although you may not think they come under the category of fun or interesting, you will be amazed to see the positive reaction from visitors. For the public, who have never seen sheep being weighed through a handling system, tags put in ears or even feet being trimmed, this is a whole new world and gives a fascinating insight into farming.
Sharing our Farming Story
Here are a few more examples of how we share the farming story on the day:
Sheep/Wool – This is the main enterprise on our farm, a local lad comes in and shears some sheep and another farmer gives a running commentary explaining the process and getting the visitors involved in touching the fleece/wool and interacting with a board where people write up anything made from wool – you will be amazed at the suggestions! People can watch spinning and weaving enthusiasts take the fleece and convert it into something in front of their eyes.
Arable or Grassland – Nothing is nicer on a dry day than going for a walk around a field, or if your farm does not have arable crops, perhaps ask your local corn merchant to set up a stand with samples of different crops; he can then explain what it is used for, from animal feeds to our everyday breakfast products. Run a simple competition to guess how many acres of corn converts into a certain number of packs of breakfast cereal – the host farmer handbook has some mini-field statistics for you to use. People love a challenge and a local supermarket might give a voucher or hamper as a prize.
Milking – We do not milk cows at our farm but we borrow a life-size fibreglass milk cow and set this up in one of the barns; children and adults can sit on the stool and milk the cow; we ask a local dairy farmer or one of his family to come along and tell the milk story
Woodland/Environment – Arrange a small walk or tour; either put up information posters at significant points or ask a few experts to give talks about what visitors can see or take groups around.
Horticulture – Whether it is fruit and vegetables or growing herbs and plants there is always a story to tell.
The star of the day is you! People just want to talk to a farmer or grower, sometimes ask questions and find out a little more of what goes on behind those closed gates. So, if your farm has all or some of the above and attracts a couple of hundred visitors, or maybe you have a polytunnel growing herbs which appeals to twenty people, just remember, your visitors will have a smile on their faces – just like you.
A Word About Safety
Safety will no doubt be the number one topic on your list to sort. Just take a walk on the same route visitors will go, take a family friend with you, two eyes are better than one, it is not as frightening as you may have first thought. Make sure all machinery you don’t want visitors to see is parked in barns or away from public access. This also applies to those odd rolls of barbed wire or equipment that potentially might cause an accident or someone could harm themselves. Lock any shed you do not want the public to access, a cheap padlock is all it takes to make the area out of bounds. It’s all common sense and the Host Farmer Handbook has lots of information and a template risk assessment form you can use.
Have a great day, smile and enjoy – remember to encourage as many others as you can to be involved – what is it that they say about ‘many hands make light work …’
LEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017. Register your event and order FREE resources here . To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.