In the ninth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Huw Rowlands, North West Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, tells us how the planning for his own event is progressing.
Open Farm Sunday has a habit of sneaking up on me. One day it’s months away and we are thinking about how to get water pipes thawed so the Red Poll cattle can drink, and the next we are wishing we had done more to prepare for the big day with the realisation that cows have nearly all calved, crops are growing, days, like beer from micro-brewers, have become lighter, and almost half a year has slipped by. This year will be different…
We usually offer guided farm walks, which are popular. Visitors enjoy meeting our Red Poll cattle, especially the young calves. The route for the walks is organised and my script is prepared, helped by strategic landmarks around the farm such as a particular willow tree, a new fence, or even a strategically placed mineral bucket to act as prompts and reminders. I always include local history, geology, land use, and natural history as well as information about our farming practices so that there is something of interest for everyone. Plans and offerings for the day from the other organisations involved are also now almost firmed up, and regular email updates ensure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing. The week before Open Farm Sunday we will all meet in person to ensure that any problems and difficulties foreseen are dealt with, leaving only the unforeseen to react to on the day. All that remains is to promote our event locally using the free resources provided by LEAF. There is still plenty of time to order and distribute publicity material from the Open Farm Sunday website if you haven’t already got this far. We regularly update and amend our entry on the Open Farm Sunday website to ensure that it is current and that there are no disappointed visitors.
Have I Got Loos For You!
Always a concern to those opening their farms on Open Farm Sunday is what to do about toilets for visitors. Guidance can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive website and from Farming and Countryside Education. It is worth remembering that Open Farm Sunday is a one-off event and so visitors will not be expecting palatial surroundings in which to perform their ablutions. You may be happy to let people use the toilet in your house, especially if you are only expecting a small number of visitors and if they are known to you anyway. Alternatively, you can do as we have successfully done in the past and team up with a local pub or village hall, both of which will boast superior toilet facilities. They may also help you promote your event and could also be happy to provide parking on the basis that they will benefit from additional customers on the day. This sort of arrangement also saves on the expense of hiring portable toilets. Legally, you do not have to provide separate toilets for men and women. A little bit of thought about how to meet this most basic human requirement will ensure that you end Open Farm Sunday flushed with success.
A common query about Open farm Sunday is what to do about catering. You don’t have to provide any, although it can be a good way to make some extra money, add to your visitors enjoyment of the day, and especially to showcase your products if, like us, you sell directly to the public. The key point to remember is that anyone providing food must by law have an up-to-date basic food hygiene certificate. They are relatively cheap costing as little as £25 for an online course, so it can even be undertaken from the comfort of your home/office. Your local authority will be able to advise you further. Again, teaming up with a local pub can often work well, or you might want to ask a local organisation or charity, such as the Women’s Institute, if they would like to provide catering and give them the opportunity for some fund raising. My top tip for catering is either keep it simple or delegate it.
Huw Rowlands farms at Mickle Trafford, Chester, running a Red Poll suckler herd. Beef is sold directly from the farm and at farmers markets, and the farm offers educational access visits all year and has recently won an Arriva Community Action Award. The farm is in Higher Level Stewardship and has 10 ha of poplar plantations as well as rotational stewardship crops aimed at enhancing wildlife on the farm. Huw is also a rail replacement coach co-ordinator!