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: reaching out to our customers

Andy Mitchell

Andy Mitchell, M&S Agronomist

Andy Mitchell, M&S Agronomist  (soft fruit, top fruit, tropical and dried fruit and nuts) reflects on the 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday and his time at Castleton Fruit Farm just outside Aberdeen, meeting customers and explaining the story behind their food. 

So the tenth anniversary of Open Farm Sunday is over and the team at LEAF have worked so hard to make this the best yet.  Huge thanks also to our 15 M&S growers who opened their farms to tell their farming story.

Supporting our growers

Andy Mitchell 1

Supporting M&S growers to reach out to the public

I do love this event.   We at M&S are proud to be long standing sponsors, so in true fashion, I went along to support my local event.  This time, I left the cereals of Grantham for the hills and soft fruit of Castleton Fruit Farm farmed by Ross Mitchell, one of our key growers in soft fruit at M&S. For over 15 years, Ross and his family have supported M&S in producing the finest of berries, so it was a natural choice to make our way to just outside Aberdeen.

We got to Castleton farm bright and early on Sunday, the Saturday winds that battered the tents and tunnels had been a challenge but the team on site were still smiling.  The preparation was staggering – a bouncy castle, a tractor full of balloons, a table full of M&S goodies for a charity raffle and so much more including local food and of course, the wonderful farm shop and restaurant.

Engaging with our customers

Having been to a few Open Farm Sunday events now I was hopefully ready for what lay ahead!  Engaging with our customers to help them understand why farming is the most vibrant, exciting and tough industry to work in is so rewarding.  We had a huge mix of people coming to visit the M&S tent, tasting the different strawberry varieties grown on the farm.   It is always interesting to find out first-hand what the public thinks and it is never quite what you expect!

Andy Mitchell6

Explaining to the next generation how their food is grown is a huge privilege

We got loads of great questions about farming, soft fruit, Open Farm Sunday and M&S.  It was so evident that there is such a huge loyalty and love for growers and farmers.  This groundswell change has been significant and really the result of the work that LEAF and our farmers have delivered, great job to you all.  We at M&S have a huge sense of pride when we are able to get so much interaction with our growers and our customers. It is a huge privilege and indeed, our duty as retailers is to tell children about how a strawberry grows, why we need bees and that it takes just 60 days to grow a crop of berries!

So while the kids are busy painting, going on tractor tours, bouncing on the huge castle, it’s a chance to talk to the parents and older generation about the local community and, of course, the huge amount of workers needed to make farming happen.  This is the whole ethos behind Open Farm Sunday – to explain the realities of farming and dispel the myths.

Looking ahead to next year

After the warm glow of this year’s Open Farm Sunday, my thoughts turn to next year’s event on the 5th June.  M&S take huge pride in our growers wanting to take part in this event and we are already thinking about how we can make it even better for them as well as further supporting LEAF.  Our thinking caps are well and truly in place!

OFS-Colour-plain-datedNext year’s Open Farm Sunday is on the 5th June with Open Farm School Days taking place throughout June.  Click here to keep up to date with all the latest Open Farm Sunday news and if you went along to an Open Farm Sunday event this year, we would love to hear from you.  Complete our visitor survey here and our host farmer survey here

Tenth Open Farm Sunday celebrates record breaking year


Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive

Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) reflects on a record breaking 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday.

What a day!  The sun shone (on most of us!) and the crowds came flocking onto farms in their thousands!  Early estimates show that visitor numbers for Open Farm Sunday 2015 will be over 250,000 – far exceeding the record breaking attendance of 2014 by more than 15%.

Our tenth Open Farm Sunday has been a resounding success and a fantastic celebration of British farming and food. From the feedback received so far, it’s clear that Open Farm Sunday enabled hundreds of thousands of people to have an amazing day in the countryside, learning about farming and the story behind their food. We’re particularly delighted so many families took the time to visit farms up and down the country, many for the first time.

DSC_3264 from Michael Sly

Nearly 400 farms opened their gates for Open Farm Sunday. It is the farmers, their families, sponsors, the Young Farmers, the neighbours, others in the industry that we ALL owe a huge debt in helping raise the profile of why farming is great.

On behalf of all the LEAF team, I’d like to offer a huge thank you to everyone involved. Some 400 farms opened their gates and it is the farmers, their families, sponsors, the Young Farmers, the neighbours, others in the industry that we ALL owe a huge debt in helping raise the profile of why farming is great.

Farmers do not often get a ‘thank you’ for all the hard work they do every single day to produce our food and manage the countryside.  I hope all the farmers that opened their gates will be heartened by the public support there is for farming and cherish some special memories. The faces of the children and the families who visited them on Open Farm Sunday, as well as the sheer joy and sense of awe in seeing the livestock, a calf being born or the size and price of the machinery, not to mention the many inquisitive questions.  Indeed, the only tears I saw were those of the children not wanting to go home!

IMG_8135 trailer wave MHS Farms Park Farm

Visitors came in their thousands for this year’s 10th Anniversary Open Farm Sunday

So a huge well done and thank you! Do take a moment to complete our host farmer feedback form so we can continue to build on the success we have achieved together.

Finally, as well as Open Farm Sunday, LEAF also organises Open Farm School Days, where farms are open for school visits throughout June – click here to find out more.

Next year’s Open Farm Sunday will take place on the 5th June 2016 so please put the date in your diary now and keep up with all the Open Farm Sunday news on our website and follow us on Twitter @openfarmsunday

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

David Jones

David Jones, Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East of England

David Jones is a farm manager for Morley Farms Ltd in Norfolk growing 800 hectares of combinable crops and sugar beet. The farm also hosts about 35 hectares of 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 and Open Farm Sunday Regional Coordinator for the East of England.

So you have registered your Open Farm Sunday, you have cut some grass, swept the farm from the sheds to the stables, banners are up, handed out invites, developed a car park with an elaborate one way system.  First car arrives. It’s the June 7th Open Farm Sunday is GO!

But what are you going to TELL your visitors, well don’t TELL them anything.

SHARE your farm

SHARE your experiences

SHARE what it’s like throughout the year

SHARE the life of your crops and your animals

David Jones 2

Share the magic of farming this Open Farm Sunday!

So often I have been on visits to other businesses where people tell you about how many widgets they produce, how many million man hours they use but rarely do I find out what they actually do. Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, think about what will interest them in and, more importantly, what they are likely to remember next week, next year.

  • Use facts that are memorable to adults and children. For example, 1 square metre of wheat could produce 1kg = 1 loaf of bread. NOT ‘we get a yield of 10t/ha which makes 10000 loaves of bread’. What does a tonne look like? What’s a hectare and 10 000 loaves would make me sick!
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms so explain what you mean when you say ‘the cows are served’ or ‘the barley is drilled’ and explain who and what is LEAF
  • Use props, if talking about silage, stand next to some or have some in a large bucket so your visitors don’t only hear and see but also smell and feel. If you are explaining part of a cycle or system like how you make hay, if the machines are not to hand why not get some toy tractors to show the process.  Simply use a white board to show the life cycle of a sheep flock (it works for school teachers).
  • Can your visitors hear you? Consider getting a microphone or simply manage the group size.

Use props and talk about farming in ways that children and adults will remember

To help farmers and others get better at sharing their experiences, there are lots of tips and ideas on the Open Farm Sunday website.  Another great resource is a website called Farming is Magic which is a collection of short films that give lots of tips and techniques on how to make your presentation more memorable. Have a look for yourself here

And good luck sharing some of the magic in farming on Open Farm Sunday on the 7th June!

Open Farm Sunday is farming’s national open day and takes place on the 7thJune 2015.  To find a farm near you go to: or email:

Health and Safety on Open Farm Sunday

Andy Guy is Regional Open Farm Sunday Coordinator for the East Midlands.  This will be Andy’s  tenth Open Farm Sunday and he remains just as excited about the event now as he was back in 2006.  Here, he shares some of his Health and Safety top tips. 

IMG_7250 Andy Guy

Andy Guy, Open Farm Sunday East Midlands Regional Coordinator

As I write this piece, in late April, about Health and Safety on Open Farm Sunday, most hosts will be torn between fieldwork and first cut silage but there are important priorities that need your attention ahead of the big day.  However, the safety of your visitors, helpers and staff on 7th June is your responsibility thinking ahead now can save a lot of time later.

Here are some of my key pointers below, but do read the H&S guidance given (pages 10 to 14) in the 2015 Host Farmer Handbook.

Risk Assessment

Always a top priority. Risk assessments help you identify the hazards on your farm and work out how to minimise and control them. The aim is to find all the things that might cause harm to somebody and list them, along with the type of injury that might be inflicted. List what you already do to reduce the risk of injury or harm and work out whether it will be sufficient to protect your visitors. If you need to do more, then record the actions required, who will implement them and when.

One tip, which makes risk assessment easier for me is to find a friend to walk round your farm with you (my self-employed builder pal has proved most useful). A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful!

You’ll find a blank risk assessment form at the back of your Host Farmers Handbook and remember to give a copy of your completed risk assessment form to your helpers.


You need to contact your insurers. Most farm insurance policies cover you for Public Liability and many brokers will be happy to extend the cover to include Open Farm Sunday at no extra cost.  You need a minimum of £5 million public liability insurance (if you regularly host school visits you will probably need £10 million).

Hand washing facilities

If your visitors come into contact with farm animals, you need to provide hand washing facilities – running water, liquid soap and paper towels.  Refer to the industry code of practice here


Good, temporary hand washing facilities – running water, liquid soap and paper towels

Other key points to consider:

  • No-go areas, such as the grain bin and fertiliser store: Lock up.  Cordon off.  Keep visitors away.
  • If visitors can climb on static machinery: Remove keys.  Limit fuel in the tank.  Brakes on and use chocks.  Spikes down.  Supervise if allowing people into the cab.
  • Livestock bio-security: the golden rule is ‘clean in’, ‘clean off’ and keep visiting stock separate from other stock.
  • Don’t forget to be aware of your personal safety: Keep your house locked.  Be aware of anyone suspicious. Keep valuables locked away or supervised.
05 PJR_2290 - pouring grain small

Cordon off any areas that could be hazardous

Getting the planning right now will mean that the day will run smoothly but, if you have any doubts about H&S talk to your OFS Regional Coordinator – they have years of experience in organising and planning events.  Find your nearest OFS Regional Coordinator here and there is lots of H&S information to be found at

Open Farm Sunday is farming’s national open day and takes place on the 7th June 2015. To register you event and order FREE resources, go to: or email:

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.

Tamara Hall 2

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.

Tamara Hall 4

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.


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.


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

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.


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.

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