Category Archives: The Open Farm Sunday Blog

This blog will give you a behind the scenes look at the goings on leading up to Open Farm Sunday and beyond!

Open Farm Sunday 2014 – one month on!

Annabel Shackleton (left) pictured with Owen Paterson MP, Environment Secretary and Josephine Davies at Longslow Farm’s Open Farm Sunday Event

Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday manager at LEAF, reflects on Open Farm Sunday, one month on.

Hours of planning, inspiration, preparation and hard work all came together on Open Farm Sunday 2014.

One month on, and LEAF is proud to confirm that 2014 was another record-breaking year.  375 farms opened their gates to the public welcoming over 207,000 visitors to discover more about how their food is produced.

We are continuing to collate feedback, figures and stats from farmers and visitors alike. Individuals so appreciative of the events and activities farmers organised to showcase British farming and food.  Farmers so proud of what they achieved and delighted to see their staff and helpers sharing their passion for the industry with their local communities.  Teachers and school children enthused to be out on farms and being inspired by their visit.

Looking back over the past month, it is worth reminding ourselves the impact Open Farm Sunday has on farmers, the public, our communities and the wider industry.

Open Farm Sunday provides a wonderful opportunity to experience farming first hand

First and foremost, Open Farm Sunday reaches out to so many people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to visit a farm. It welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds and gives them a wonderful opportunity to experience farming first hand. For some it will have been their first visit to a farm.  For many, it will have inspired them to think a little bit more about their food and what goes into producing it.   It will have encouraged some to make changes to what they buy and what they feed their children – hopefully seeking out more local, British and sustainably produced food.  We hope it will have helped engender a greater respect for food, the farmers who produce it and the role farmers have as custodians of our precious countryside.

Open Farm Sunday also brings communities together encouraging farmers to work with neighbouring farmers, industry suppliers, local groups and individuals to share what they do.  Once again it has been a fabulous opportunity to showcase all that farmers and industry does to produce great food in sustainable ways which safeguard our environment.

So whilst the visitors may have gone home, the machinery put away and the farm returns ‘to normal’ the impact of Open Farm Sunday will remain long after we close the gates – until next year!

On behalf of the LEAF Team a huge thank you to the 6,000 farmers and their helpers who took part this year to make this the best Open Farm Sunday yet.  Our thanks also to our wonderful sponsors, who’s support make it all possible:  Asda, BASF, Country Life butter, Defra, Farmers Weekly, Frontier Agriculture, John Deere, Kellogg’s, LEAF Marque, Marks and Spencer, National Farmers Union, Syngenta, Tesco, The Co-operative, Waitrose, plus Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board support from BPEX, DairyCo, Eblex, HDC and HGCA divisions, plus Hellmann’s.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Open Farm Sunday so put the 7th June 2015 in your diary now so we can make the celebrations even bigger!

OFS 2014 Principal Sponsor logos


Top Tips for selling your message at Open Farm Sunday

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

In the final of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, David Jones,  Open Farm Sunday Co-ordinator for the Eastern region, tells us how he engages the public on his farm at Open Farm Sunday.

“This is a Golden Opportunity”

 As the big day draws near it is time to double-check everything is ready. There are only so many things that can be done last-minute.

At most Open Farm Sunday events the support from helpers is vital. It is important however that before the day they know how they are expected to contribute to the event. For example car park helpers (the clue is in the title) but do they know what to do if there are more cars than expected or if there is a request for wheel chair access? Helpers with stalls/refreshments do they need tables or power, farm buildings were never built with tea urns in mind!

People are always willing to help but don’t want to be lumbered with being on duty all day without a break. Have a rota and/or make provision for them to get something ‘free’ to eat and drink. Do you need a voucher system to get free drinks – the last thing you need is a disgruntled helper.

Helpers with speaking parts are the most important way of getting your message across to the visitors. This is a golden opportunity not to be missed.

Here are my 5 top tips to getting the messages across to visitors:

1. Location

Location is importantConsider where you are going to stand. If talking about cows in a cubical shed, put a cow there and have a temporary gate so she stays near you. If talking about oil seed rape cut a pathway into the crop so people are in and amongst it (a 50m X 3m path way would cost only £18 in lost crop).

2. Being heard

Find locations with less back ground noise. Consider using a mega phone or speaker system. These can be hired/bought/borrowed (from schools, scout group for example). When speaking, face your visitors – they will have more chance of hearing what you say.  Ask visitors questions, engage them in a conversation rather than talking at them.

3. Props

Make the link with food.  Whilst standing in the oilseed rape why not have a bottle of oil or mayonnaise so visitors can see the end produce and relate the crop to what they eat. Have a couple of jars with seeds or fertiliser in.  You could have a brick and stone, or pestle and mortar so someone can crush some seeds and see the oil extracted. With livestock have a wheel barrow full of silage and bucket of feed so people can see what you are talking about, they can smell and touch (as appropriate). Have a plough point to hold or some combine parts.    Consider using the ‘mini field concept’ where you talk about the inputs and outputs relating to a square metre of field – see the facts and figures here.

4. Printed materials

Print off some photos as big as you can, laminate if possible. Show what the fields/crops look like at different times of the year. Show how quickly lambs grow week by week.

5. Enough is enough

 Often less is more, don’t waffle on. If you have an awkward visitor with 100s of questions, rather than answering them all during the tour, suggest that they come back later. It is often said that an audience can only take things in for 7 minutes so talk for 6.45 minutes then move on to a new location.

It is a good idea that presenters meet up before 8th June to iron out some of the finer points and it gives time to gather resources.

You may have spent the last  4 months working towards  Open Farm Sunday 2014 and looking forward to 5pm when everyone has gone home but don’t forget to thank the helpers and discuss the day while it is fresh in everyone’s mind – and make notes.  Feedback is important it may just make Open Farm Sunday 2015 a little better but a whole lot easier.

About David

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 730 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet. The farm also hosts about 35ha field trials for NIAB TAG, the John Innes Centre, Agrovista and others. Every year the farm has about 800 visitors including school children, students, farmers, consultants and international groups. David has helped and co-hosted several Open farm Sunday events and in 2013 became Regional Coordinator for the eastern region.


Engaging visitors at Open Farm Sunday

Tom Allen Stevens, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator

Tom Allen Stevens, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator

In the tenth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Tom Allen-Stevens, South East Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, tells us how he engages the public on his farm at Open Farm Sunday.

I don’t much care for BBC’s Countryfile, but there is one part I really enjoy. Ever since they made Adam’s Farm a regular feature, it’s made the programme worth watching.

What makes Adam’s Farm stand out? I think it’s the fact that he’s an actual farmer, talking about something he is passionate about, and it’s usually on his own farm. There’s an honesty about the way he pats his Gloucester bull or grasps an ear of wheat and then tells you about.  It really does make compelling viewing.

But there’s nothing mind-blowingly fascinating about Adam’s Farm – it’s not like he’s trialling a GM crop, forging a solution to TB or inventing a new way in wool. It’s just the ordinary goings on of a Gloucestershire farm. And I think that’s the secret to it, it’s why the programme draws in nine million viewers every week, and what makes 200,000 people visit farms on Open Farm Sunday.

They’ve come to meet the farmer – experience a little of what it’s like to grow food and care for the countryside. So what I always try to do when I’m showing visitors around or explaining something is tell them about my farm from my point of view. I keep it personal and tell them about the things I enjoy, or dread, or what matters to me – it’s when you’re at your most honest, and most comfortable, and I think people really appreciate it.


I’ve a few key props I always use. Firstly, an apple and a knife. I remember when I was first shown the apple trick, and it just clicked – have a look at the download instructions to find out more. It’s a really great way to tell the farming story.

Also something to taste – I usually cut up some bread and provide some rapeseed oil for people to dip it in. It makes the whole experience more memorable if you engage more of the senses. And then something for them to take away. One thing I found works really well (and it sounds absurd) is to pull up a wheat plant, and then share round the tillers to all the children in the group. We’ll count the grain sites, number of leaves or judge how much disease it’s got. You’ll often find those children still have their special ear of wheat when they leave the farm.

I always try to keep it positive too – there are all sorts of negatives in farming, but Open Farm Sunday is about how my farm’s making a positive contribution to farming. So negatives are banned – it makes you feel much better about yourself if you just concentrate on the positives, and I swear it’s more engaging. If you introduce a bit of magic that helps – everyone knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, so why not give a child a bean and suggest it may be a magic one? Or could there be fairies in your wood?

My final rule is to keep it jargon-free. You’d be surprised at the words we use that mean something totally different to non-farmers, or are complete gobbledegook. Headland, drill, for instance. An acre is about the size of a football pitch, a heifer is a female cow and an agronomist a crop doctor.

I think we all admire the way Adam tells us about his farm in such an engaging and open manner. But I think every farmer can do the same – we all have a fascinating story to tell, and we’re at our best when we’re on our own farm telling people about the things that truly matter to us.

Register for Open Farm Sunday here >

Have I got loos for you! Open Farm Sunday Event Progress

Huw Rowlands, North West Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator

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…

Huw Rolands

Photograph courtesy of Jan Wilson, Brackendale Photography.

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.

Register for Open Farm Sunday here >

About Huw

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!


Activities to engage your visitors on Open Farm Sunday

Andy Guy, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the East Midlands

Andy Guy, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the East Midlands

Due to an unfortunate technical glitch and a long weekend of Easter bank holidays, the Open Farm Sunday blog missed its usual Friday afternoon slot! But fear not, here it is! In the eighth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Andy Guy our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the East Midlands, gives us an insight into Open Farm Sunday activities.

If you are reading this blog you have either already decided to open your farm on 8th June this year, or you are seriously thinking about taking the plunge for the first time. Whichever category you fall into, you must have some concerns in your mind; How many visitors will turn up? How do I make sure the farm is safe? Do I have enough to interest people?

The first two have already been talked about in previous blog posts [find them here] so I will talk about how to keep your guests entertained.

The truth is that no matter how plain you might think your farm is, it is a world of new discoveries for most of your visitors. The trick you need to pull off on the big day, is finding clever ways to get your messages across without boring your guests.

The statistics show that around a third of visitors last year were aged less than 11 and a further third were 26-45 years old, so they were the parents! So the majority are families with young children and the key to keeping them happy lies in the young ones. Speaking as a parent myself, I know that if the children are enjoying their day, the parents will be very happy too.

Andy talking to some of his visitors

Andy talking to some of his visitors

There have been all sorts of successful activities on farms in the last eight years. There has been pig racing, sheep shearing, pond dipping, wellie whanging and mini-beast safaris!  Farmers have fallen back on old favourites too. Tractor and Trailer rides, guided walks, demonstrations and talks all work well too.

The most successful activities are those which are interactive. Providing a treasure hunt to keep the youngsters interested on a farm walk will mean that you have a chance to talk to their parents about the way you manage the farm.

Giving the children a card and double sided sticky tape means they can collect the things that surprise them and keep them to show to their families. They can collect wool from the fences, feathers and leaves from the hedgerows, grain and straw from the barn building up a map of their route around the farm.

The list of activities is only limited by your imagination, but they will enhance the experience for the families who visit you on 8th June enormously.

If you come up with any new ideas please tweet them to @OpenFarmSunday with the hashtag #OFS14 and you can tweet Andy directly at @AndyGuy1963

Register your farm online at

About Andy

Andy is our Open Farm Sunday coordinator in the East Midlands. He is a huge supporter of LEAF and has been involved in Open Farm Sunday since it began in 2006. He was a LEAF Demonstration Farmer for several years but now describes himself as a “Sustainable Farming Consultant”.

How to run a safe Open Farm Sunday event

Jeremy Padfield, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West

Jeremy Padfield, Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West

In the seventh of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Jeremy Padfield our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South West, discusses health and safety for Open Farm Sunday visits and why it doesn’t have to be as dreaded as it often is!

When we first took the decision to open our farm, health and safety was one of my biggest concerns. However, I soon learnt that most of the issues can be resolved with a bit of common sense and preparation.

Number one on the list is to carry out a risk assessment yourself and then get a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to look around the farm who can pick out maybe one or two hazards that we miss because we see them day in day out. This person could be a neighbouring farmer or someone who is not too familiar with your farm.

A great way of preparing for the big day is to get a map of the farm and buildings. By using a birds eye perspective you can see how the flow of visitors from car park to the various activities is going to work best. It will also highlight where the catering or picnic area (if any) is best located as well as any areas where animals will be situated. It is crucial that these areas are kept well apart and there must be hand washing facilities between the two locations.

The animal areas should be clean and well bedded and anything that your visitor may come into contact with must be clean, such as walkways and gates/ hurdles. Good practice is to have a disinfectant mat or piece of carpet on the entrance, which is a good way of keeping prams and pushchairs clean as well as protecting your livestock!

The animal contact locations should be well supervised with informed staff or volunteers making sure that no one is put at risk to E. coli. Obviously no eating or hand to mouth contact should take place. Visitors should be informed by plenty of signage and verbally from the guys stationed in the area that all (parents and children) must wash their hands when leaving these areas. Watch out also for little Jimmy dropping his dummy and then popping it back in his mouth! Running cold water along with liquid antibacterial soap and paper towels should be supplied.

The ‘bird’s eye’ view of your farm also helps pinpoint high risk areas such as ponds, slurry pits, chemical stores, workshops, grain bin/silos, tractor/trailer areas, electric fences which must be locked or cordoned off with signage and tape.

Having machinery on display is a great crowd pleaser, but make sure that if visitors are allowed onto machines then you have staff supervising this. It is also essential to take the keys out as I remember on our second Open Farm Sunday, when a responsible parent handed us the key to the combine which had hastily been brought out that morning and parked in the yard! Also ensure that any sharp or dangerous parts of machinery are cordoned off to avoid any injury.

Tractor and trailer rides are always popular

Tractor and trailer rides are always popular

Everyone loves the tractor and trailer rides but if you are running this activity then you must ensure that you comply with the current legislation. The main points are that the seating must be fixed, the sides of the trailer should have a hand rail and kick board and no gap big enough for a child to get through and the trailer to have independent braking.

There are two qualifications that will be necessary:

  1. First aid. It is important that someone on site (it doesn’t have to be you) is a first aider who can be available throughout your event.
  2. Food hygiene. If you are serving food then someone must have a food hygiene certificate.

Toilets are pretty important but don’t get too concerned because one loo should be enough for 400 to 500 people as long as they don’t want to use it at the same time!

Finally, you must let your insurance company know that you are hosting the event and ensure that you have adequate public liability (£5 million) cover, but don’t worry, most insurers won’t charge an additional premium for this!

Have a great event!

About Jeremy

Jeremy runs the family farm in the Mendip Hills in Somerset. The farm is predominantly arable along with a beef and an equine business. The farm carries out lots of conservation work and all the land is in HLS and ELS. This is the 7th year that the farm has hosted Open Farm Sunday.

What we’re planning for Open Farm Sunday

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria

In the sixth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Gail Anderson our Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, discusses her plans for Open Farm Sunday.

My mantra for Open Farm Sunday is “The everyday to farmers is a fascinating day out to everyone else”. Just because you live on a farm and interact with it 7 days a week it doesn’t mean that the people coming to visit your farm have the slightest clue of what you do. With this in mind, the activities planned for Open Farm Sunday can be as simple or as creative as you want.

Tidy your farm up and let the public see a few pens of livestock, clean out your parlour and have the machines pumping water through them, or organise a farm walk or tractor and trailer ride. Something simple like showing an ear of corn, the corn in grain and then a selection of things which could be made from it, i.e. flour, bread, etc, can fascinate an audience.

Open Farm Sunday

Animals always add an attraction, but if you don’t have any of your own, then why not ask your neighbours to bring some of their animals or be on hand to answer questions about lambing, calving, and the like? Remember to adhere to the health and safety guidelines for livestock:

  • Have them in a newly bedded up area
  • Ensure there is no seepage or run-off from the livestock
  • Have someone supervise the area

If you let the public pet the animals make sure you have hand-washing facilities; or if you don’t want visitors to touch the animals,  try some lengths of drainage pipe to allow people to feed the animals, this will make them feel connected without the worry of any potential health concerns).

Hand washing facilities are paramount: simply have a running tap (hot or cold), liquid soap and paper towels, put up signs to encourage hand washing and have helpers to ensure visitors keep their hands clean. It’s that simple.

From personal experience it is great to rope in friends and family to not only help with the management of the day but also to add a bit of variety. Some friends, who work in the logging industry, come to give demonstration of horse drawn bracken rolling, we know people in the RSPB who are happy to have a stand and take people on guided walks, friends have small rural companies so they have a stall or two selling rural crafts. The tractor and trailer rides always go down a storm, as does a barbeque if you have your own produce – both of these things are firm favourites for our Open farm Sunday events.

Your local NFU or Young farmers may also be interested. It’s so much fun, especially when you have extra people mucking in. Promotion needn’t be a headache either; anything from a few posters in local shops or the odd sign dotted about, to getting in touch with local newspapers and radio and asking for some coverage. Make it as big or as small as you like!

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About Gail

Gail Anderson, Regional Co-ordinator for the North East and Cumbria, lives with her parents on their 200 acre arable and livestock farm in County Durham. The family as a whole has found involvement in Open Farm Sunday very rewarding, and a wonderful way to inform the public about farming whilst also connecting with the local farming community and friends.

EVERY farm has something to shout about on Open Farm Sunday

Rebecca Dawes, Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator

In the fifth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Rebecca Dawes our Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator, discusses the ways in which all farms can get involved in Open Farm Sunday.

To many, what goes on behind the farm gate is a mystery, but Open Farm Sunday is every farmers chance to bridge the gap and be very proud of what they produce.  EVERY farm, regardless of size or type, has something to shout about on Open Farm Sunday. Writing this as both a host farmer of 8 years, and as the Scottish Open Farm Sunday Coordinator, I have had the privilege of attending events that welcomed a restricted 20 guests, to those who watched more than 200 visitors walk through their farm gates, right through to my last open day which was enjoyed by more than 2000 enthusiastic visitors. It is often said that as farmers, we forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public. For example, one host farmer only welcomes 30 guests, and they have to phone and pre-book. They join him in their wellies, coats and aprons fresh on the Sunday morning to help him check his sheep. They walk the farm with him, ask questions and take photographs – buzzing as they leave, their experience will undoubtedly be shared with friends and family.

Some farmers want to take it to the next stage, so they welcome 200 visitors. This time pre-booking is not required, the posters provided by Open Farm Sunday have only been distributed in the local community. The farm walks run every 30 minutes and on returning to the farm yard, his family are cooking burgers and bacon rolls that guests can buy for breakfast, brunch or lunch. Setup in pens away from his normal livestock is a dozen different breeds of sheep each with its own description sheet, and in the adjacent barn is a wall and information table full of material from the British Wool Marketing Board. Again the guests leave with a smile on their face because they have stepped through those farm gates that they pass daily.

"As farmers, we can forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public"

“As farmers, we can forget that our daily activities are fascinating to the general public”

Then there is the farmer who decided to go that step further, distributing posters and leaflets to the community and local school groups, putting an advert in the local newspaper, inviting the local radio to interview them, persuading some of the Open Farm Sunday sponsors to carry leaflets in their stores and putting up road signs that were supplied by Open Farm Sunday.  The local young farmers group along with scouts are showing cars to their parking place and using it as an opportunity to ask visitors for a small donation to charity.  The farm walks have been replaced by a tractor and trailer that is available every hour. The refreshments are now offered in a grass field with picnic seating and a couple of toilets have been hired. The wool information display is accompanied by the local spinners and weavers group who offer demonstrations and a chance to have a go. The local school is running an art and craft workshop using wool to make sheep out of toilet rolls. A neighbouring farmer is running sheep shearing demonstrations at various intervals throughout the day, the local animal feed company has come along to show what the animals eat and how much per year and a local butcher is running a sausage making demonstration with lamb.  Away from this a local business with a bouncy castle has been invited to take some space and charges children a minimal fee to enjoy it, the local church is coordinating a few trade stalls who have been charged to attend with the money going to the church roof fund, a local drama group is telling farmyard stories, a music group is singing a few songs while guests enjoy lunch and a large red fire engine is getting plenty of use by young boys and girls who want to pretend to be “Fire Man Sam”, although this has to be parked by an exit just in case it has an emergency. The local machinery company has donated a combine harvester, tractor and forklift – each vehicle has a poster with a pound sign and question mark on it. Visitors are asked in a mock auction to “bid” for the items to the value that they think it would actually have cost the farm, and finally a circle of bales is laid out ready for the farmer to return from his tractor and trailer tour to take centre stage at the “Farmer Question Time” before closing the event. This Open Farm Sunday event has been open for five hours, families have come and gone full of enthusiasm for the food and farming industry, and the only activity required by the farmer is driving his tractor and speaking to his guests.

Regardless of whether your enterprise is sheep, dairy, cattle, chicken, vegetables, fruits, crop or something else, there are plenty of individuals and businesses out there who will come along and support your event. This could be simply by providing materials, running an activity or taking a stand. The question to ask when organising an event is – what do I want to get out of this, if someone comes along what will they get out of it AND what lasting memory do you want visitors to have.

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About Rebecca

Rebecca Dawes and her family have been hosting Open Farm Sunday events since it began in 2006, initially welcoming 90 visitors and building the event to over 2000 visitors in 2012. Rebecca is the Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-ordinator and is also the Communications and Rural Affairs Manager, at the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.

Getting ready for Open Farm School Days

Tamara Hall

Tamara Hall, Molescroft Farms

In the fourth of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, Tamara Hall of Molescroft Farms Ltd. and Yorkshire and Humberside Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, explains how she started out with Open Farm School Days and her top tips for school visits.

I first decided to have school visits on the Friday before Open Farm Sunday to make better use of the activities we had set up and to make full use of the farm being uber tidy! In addition, it would publicise our Open Farm Sunday event. One thing I thought at previous Open Farm Sunday’s, was that the children didn’t ask as many questions when they were with their parents and the parents were loath to look foolish by asking questions. Having the children visit us in ‘school mode’ on the Friday they could learn plenty and show off to their parents on the following Sunday, inadvertently teaching the parents!

Easy in theory, so in a fit of enthusiasm during April 2011 I sent hand-written invites to our eight local primary schools, along with detailed information packs and promises of help with transport costs. I waited excitedly for the pre-stamped reply postcard to flood back. A couple of weeks later I had only heard back from one of the schools who had visited several times before that they would like to come. I think a couple of others eventually sent back the postcards with the ‘No thanks, not this year’ box ticked. I then quickly emailed a number of schools over a larger area and soon had seven schools signed up, one bringing two classes. Once I had recovered from the feelings of rejection and annoyance at how much time I had spent lovingly writing the invites, I started trying to find out why there had been so little interest. Over the past three years I have worked out the following:

  1. Many schools arrange their visits in September for the academic year. They only have funding for a certain number of visits per year so they need to be organised. If you want to get a large number of schools you need to start inviting them in the autumn term.
  2. Some teachers aren’t interested in visiting a farm. You are best to invite more schools and get teachers who do genuinely want to bring their children as they will get more out of the visit and you will enjoy it more.
  3. Emails work well rather than post (cheaper and easier). Only a number will reach the right teacher but again, you need to send them to more schools. Keep it brief as the teachers won’t have time to read pages, just say what you will be delivering and say you would like to make an appointment with the head teacher to explain more about the visit. Follow this up with a phone call.

It will definitely help if you can fund their transport. I have heard that some parents won’t even pay £2 toward a school trip, which means the whole class can’t go. You only need to pay half of the costs, which should be £75-100 per coach. I have found Agricultural Societies quite helpful and Gleadells now help fund our visits, so also ask your business contacts. Ask face-to-face and ask early.

Once you have the schools signed up you need to keep them happy. The main thing they liked about our events is the organisation. They need timetables and maps of the farmyard if they’ll be self-guided between activities. As with Open Farm Sunday, signage is essential. I find this part is more important to the teachers than linking it with the curriculum – they will only visit if food and farming is relevant to what they are already planning to do in the classroom.

Rudolph Day 029The other response we have had is how interactive it needs to be. I started off only wanting 7-11 year olds, I prefer talking to the older ones as they’re so entertaining. However, schools like to bring 5-7 year olds since it fits well with what they are doing in the classroom. This age group needs more hands-on activities but all ages learn more by doing than by listening. We have now made our groups smaller with 15-20 children in each group. If you are funded for Educational Access through HLS these smaller groups still count as a full visit as long as you get a feedback form for each group.

We have eight activities areas around the main farm yard, each lasting for 20 minutes and so eight school groups visit each day. Our hands-on activities which also work for Open Farm Sunday include:

  • Candling eggs at various stages of incubation and handling day-old chicks. Our local incubator shop runs this but you could also ask another farmer to do this for you. This is very good for teaching life cycles, which all children study.
  • Planting potatoes. Get the children to help plant potatoes in buckets (in compost rather than soil) then harvest the previous groups potatoes which they planted. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t grown – you can explain what does happen. They will remember that potatoes grow under the soil.
  • Grinding wheat. You can buy cheap hand grain mills on eBay and the children love to grind a handful of wheat into flour. You can then get them to sieve it to show them where bran comes from. This helps connect the grain we grow with the food they eat at home.
  • Milk a cow. All the info you need to make a pretend cow for the children to milk is here on the FACE website 
  • Make a scarecrow. You can buy cheap disposable white overalls and ask local charity shops to save you some clothes that aren’t good enough to sell in return for a donation. Get the schools to bring the heads – balloons covered in papier-mâché is a good pre-visit activity. The children will love stuffing the overalls with straw and dressing them up. You can have a prize for the best scarecrow. Furthermore you can explain why you need to put bangers on the farm!

Whether you decide to invite one school or several, I’d recommend hosting school visits they are both rewarding and great fun!

Take part in LEAF’s Open Farm School Days 2nd to 13th June.  For more information contact LEAF:  024 7641 3911 or email

About Tamara

Tamara Hall runs Molescroft Farms Ltd, a family owned arable farm in East Yorkshire. Alongside the arable farm 10% of the land is in Higher Level Stewardship and she started a Community Allotment in 2012, with 70 plots let and with a waiting list of over 50. 

She started hosting Open Farm Sunday in 2007 with an invited group for a farm walk helped by the RSPB. In 2011, she ran an Open Farm Friday by inviting local schools to publicise their Open Farm Sunday. This evolved into Open Farm School Days with 1,000 visitors over the week in 2012. Tamara has been the Regional Coordinator for Yorkshire and Humberside for four years.

Visit the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow when it stops near you!

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

David Jones, Morley Farms Ltd

In the third of our fortnightly series of posts all about Open Farm Sunday and engaging the public on your farm, David Jones, Farm Manager at Morley Farms Ltd, invites you to the Open Farm Sunday Roadshow of Information Events. Subscribe to this blog to receive updates directly to your inbox!

To retain its competitive edge, a Formula 1 team would keep its innovations and designs under wraps until the last minute. But most farming businesses are somewhat different – after all, most of what we do is done outside. If I did find a new variety of golden beans, then it would be out growing in a field for all to see!  As commodity producers we are not in direct competition with each other, so we can open our gates and openly discuss what we do. This is the reason why I think Open Farm Sunday works so well.

Every year LEAF holds events for host farmers and this year, we’re going one step further with a new Roadshow of 24 events across Britain from Exeter to Inverness!  Each Information Event is not only for newcomers to Open Farm Sunday, but experienced hosts who want a refresher and gather new ideas and top tips including the all-important health and safety.

Wherever you manage to catch the Roadshow, I’m sure you will be inspired.  All events follow the same format, however there is the flexibility to address specific concerns and embrace the experience of people in the room, sharing ideas and solutions to common problems.

At one event I ran last year, a farmer in Essex was worried that they had a small farm down a narrow lane and lived near a large population of people. What if thousands of people turned up and what if it rained? The advice was maybe having a ‘ticket only’ event with a restricted number of people. Or limiting promotion of the event by giving quantities of event flyers to local primary schools to put in their book bags.  Or just go for it and have lots of friends and neighbours on standby to help if required on the day. As for parking, maybe they could borrow part of a neighbour’s field.

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Open Farm Sunday Information Event

Many of the questions revolve around health and safety. The first step is to apply some common sense. Look around the farm for anything that is sharp/pointy/oily/dirty/greasy/slippery. Protect from visitors by cleaning, covering or removing it from the site, but best of all simply keep it behind a barrier or fence.

One of the most critical things is to prevent animal faeces coming in contact with people, particularly children under 5 years. If you want some bedtime reading the ‘Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions – Industry Code of Practice‘ gives some up to date information.  And join the Roadshow when it stops at a town near you for all the latest information.

If you’re interested in opening your farm for Open Farm Sunday – click here to find out more! Open Farm Sunday Information Events are taking place all over the UK throughout February, March and April – visit the Open Farm Sunday website here to find one near you.

About David

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 730 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet. The farm also hosts about 35ha field trials for NIAB TAG, the John Innes Centre, Agrovista and others. Every year the farm has about 800 visitors including school children, students, farmers, consultants and international groups. David has helped and co-hosted several Open farm Sunday events and in 2013 became Regional Coordinator for the eastern region.