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 School Days: learning opportunities, community engagement and business benefits

Tamara Hall

Tamara Hall

Tamara Hall, Yorkshire and Humber Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator, runs a 1,200 acre arable farm in East Yorkshire.  She is passionate about giving children the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from and has been hosting visits for children for many years.   She has been hugely instrumental in the development of Open Farm School Days, which began two years ago.  Tamara tells us more about her Open Farm School Days events, how they are run and their many benefits.

We have been running visits to the farm for local school children for many years and involved in Open Farm School Days since the very beginning.  We started with just the Friday before Open Farm Sunday as a way of publicising our Open Farm Sunday event and so increasing visitor numbers. We believed that the children would bring their parents back on the following Sunday and show them what they learnt. This worked and was definitely worth doing.

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A young visitor inspired by farming

However, we quickly realised that the children were in a much better frame of mind for learning when in a school situation, rather than with their parents!  As we don’t have a farm shop and are purely doing farm visits for educational purposes and community goodwill, we decided that our time was better spent doing more school visits and the following year we ran four days with nearly 1,000 children, parents and helpers visiting our farm.

The benefit of doing these visits alongside Open Farm Sunday is that we believe it helps to get the schools to visit us. Open Farm Sunday has been a massive success with a large public recognition of the brand. This trust in the quality of Open Farm Sunday helps the schools believe in the value of Open Farm School Days. By focusing our visits on one week of the year, we can ensure the farmyard is clean and tidy. We stop farm jobs from 10am-3pm each of these days and we feel this is safer than running visits throughout the year. Livestock is bought in for this week, allowing a much wider educational experience for the children as we are purely arable the rest of the year.

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Open Farm School Days would not happen without our fantastic helpers!

Many local farmers and people employed in local agriculture help on these days. Without them we would not be able to host these events. Apart from their valuable time, this is also essential as they are each experts in their own field and their enthusiasm for their industry is obvious and transferred to the children!  Having the open days over a few set days makes it easier to ask our volunteers early in the year and I think this helps recruit help. Now we find the same people come back each year and know what they are doing so well that it has become pretty easy. As we have seven groups each day, each group only spends 20-30 minutes at each activity. As a farmer it is easy to keep a group interested for this length of time and allows each group of children to see seven different parts of UK Agriculture, from sheep to pigs, arable, wildlife management and more.

The best thing about Open Farm School Days now is that we get fantastic feedback and had all three days for this June fully booked by the middle of last September!

Another unexpected benefit to the business has been the networking side of the event. Our local John Deere reps (RBM) host the machinery activity and we have definitely got a better relationship with them following this. Gleadells Agriculture fund some of the coaches from disadvantaged areas and this led to me helping them with their new website, alongside better relations in grain marketing. Stuart Bradshaw, from our local Mill, Bradshaws, hosts the arable activity and we have now started selling our Hard Group 4 wheat to them, on an average spec contract at a better price than offered elsewhere. None of these business benefits would have come about without Open Farm School Days.

Open Farm School Days run throughout June. They provide thousands of school children with the opportunity to visit a farm to learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced.  For more information and to get involved click here

My Open Farm Sunday Journey

Rebecca Dawes 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 9th year that they have been involved in Open Farm Sunday only missing the year they moved!  Away from the farm, Rebecca works for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs as their Communications and Rural Affairs Manager, and last year took on the role of Scottish Coordinator for Open Farm Sunday.

When asked to write this blog, it seemed a good opportunity to look back and review why we opened our farm and if our aspirations have changed. Charity support and community engagement is something very important to our family and on moving to a new farm, we discovered the local primary school was looking for funds to purchase books for the library. We quickly decided to organise a Lambing Day where visitors were encouraged to make a donation to the cause. Educating the general public has also been something close to our hearts, welcoming work experience students and local school groups for visits gives us a further opportunity to tell visitors what we do.

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Rebecca Dawes, Scottish Coordinator for Open Farm Sunday

By the time of the Lambing Event, we had only been in the farm for six months so promotion was kept to the local village and other than the school’s cake and bring and buy stall, visitors just got to watch the lambing and chat to the farmer. Yet on the day, hundreds of people turned out hoping to spot a lamb being born and experience that ‘on-farm feeling’. This quickly became an annual event with the same purpose – to support local projects and showcase food and farming.

Fourteen years later and Open Farm Sunday was launched. Our event quickly moved from April to June incorporating further activities to educate the general public about the source of their food. The school ran farm related activities for children such as scarecrow building, a simple farmer question time allowed visitors to find out the facts behind farm life, local art and craft stalls sold their homemade goods and information stalls such as the Air Ambulance and British Wool Marketing Board helped raise awareness of these essential industry bodies. We made burgers and sausages from our own beef and pork and sold these as hot refreshments showcasing the food chain, low food miles and creating a little income to help cover the cost of the event. However, the materials offered free from LEAF (posters, leaflets, postcards, banners, road signs, etc) allowed us to keep these costs to the minimum.

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Rebecca Dawes (left) inspiring others about farming, food and the countryside

Ten years on and a recent move to our new farm in Scotland – have our motives changed? ….No! So when we open our farm this year we will be doing so to:

  • Raise money for our local charity
  • Promote ‘buy local’ and ‘low food miles’
  • Raise awareness for industry bodies who support agriculture
  • Offer local producers the opportunity to sell their goods direct
  • Allow visitors the opportunity to ask questions
  • And….to provide families a day on the farm which for some will be their first time.

As farmers we sometimes forget that our everyday activities are exciting and fascinating to those experiencing it for the first time. One of the most rewarding aspects of Open Farm Sunday is seeing a child cuddle a chick or an adult hearing about the process of rearing a lamb – who best to educate the public, than us the farmers! So in this, the tenth year of Open Farm Sunday when there will be more awareness for the campaign, let’s encourage more farms to open their gates and shout about British Farming!

And remember….your event does not need to be big or long and there is plenty of support available from LEAF. If you are thinking about getting involved but still not 100% sure, get in touch with your Regional Coordinator or telephone LEAF, we are here to help!

Open Farm Sunday takes place on the 7th June 2015 and Open Farm School Days run throughout June.  To find your nearest participating farm, please visit http://www.farmsunday.org

Kick start your Open Farm Sunday Event – start planning now!

Ross Mitchell runs Castleton Farm near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire, with his parents and wife Anna. Castleton Farm is a 710 acre family run business devoted to fruit production growing strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries, supplying leading supermarket chains such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer. There is also a thriving Farm Shop and Café selling home grown fruit and locally sourced produce.   Ross tells us about why he got involved with Open Farm Sunday for the first time last year and shares some of his personal top tips for a successful event…

Ross Mitchell opened up for Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2014

Ross Mitchell opened up for Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2014

Last year was the first year we had ever considered opening the farm for Open Farm Sunday. It seemed a good time – we had gained our LEAF Marque certificate and won The Royal Northern Agricultural Society Best Farming Award so, we felt opening the farm would be a great opportunity to show the public what we were about.

It is fair to say that some of my team were sceptical about the task in hand – after all, we are farmers not public speakers! After a little gentle nudging we went along to a LEAF Information Event to give us an idea about what Open Farm Sunday would involve and also to get inspired!   It really helped answer some of our questions and get us all motivated. Our main issue was how to make soft fruit as warm and snuggly as cows, sheep and llamas so that children (and adults!) would engage. Meeting other more experienced farmers who had done it for several years put our minds at ease and we picked up some new ideas on activities and how to promote our event. Thankfully, the team did lots of brain storming after reading the information and plans were quickly hatched. Although, like most farmers, I don’t like being inside – there is always something more interesting to do outside! – we did make sure that we had regular meetings about our Open Farm Sunday event and everyone on the team would bring something new each time.

Tractor and trailer rides were a huge hit

Tractor and trailer rides were a huge hit

Going along to the Information Event was a great kick start to planning our event. Being new to Open Farm Sunday it really helped to give us confidence about issues such as health and safety, promotion and planning activities.

Here are a few of my own top tips:

  • If you are doing tractor and trailer rides make sure you book the trailers early and book enough so that you don’t have hundreds waiting for the next ride.
  • Do a trial run before the day – this tests out your timings, your talk and, if you invite your team and their families, helps you deal with the most inquisitive child!
  • Get as many people on board to help you as you can – the farm team, family, friends, adjacent farmers who aren’t opening their farm, your local young farmers, suppliers – all can bring something to the day and ease the stress element.
  • Make sure you have a wet weather plan – it is after all the UK summer!
  • Involve your visitors – OK we didn’t have animals but people loved to get in the strawberry tunnels to pick their own fruit. We gave them quizzes to do as they were going round the tour – one for the kiddies and one for the big kids – so in essence they had to listen to at least some of what we were saying!

On the day itself, just be enthusiastic, helpful and informative. Not everything is going to go as you planned but heh, if you can laugh with your visitors at having to do a 3 point turn with a tractor and trailer as you missed the gate, then that’s half the battle! Above all enjoy yourself and look forward to the pint at 5pm!

Open Farm Sunday 2015 takes place on 7th June, register here or come along to a free Information Event to find out how to get involved.

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.

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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.

Catering

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 www.farmsunday.org.


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.