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!

Publicity for your Open Farm Sunday event

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Jo North and her family are third generation tenants of a farm in the South Downs National Park, and they regularly host Open Farm Sunday events. The farm is just shy of 1,000 acres – mixed dairy and arable, with small beef and sheep enterprises; their milk is sold to Tesco, via Arla.  Jo is LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday Regional Co-ordinator for the South East and here she considers publicity for Open Farm Sunday events.

For many farmers, their biggest worry is either not having enough visitors or being overrun by too many people on the day.  The weather plays an important part and will undoubtedly impact on visitor numbers, but one thing which is in your control is publicity and how you promote your event.

So for me there are two key parts to publicizing and promoting your event:

  • Promoting your event to get the number of visitors you want, plus
  • Being clear about what visitors can do at your event so that they come prepared!
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Be clear about what visitors can expect at your event

Last year, 22% of Open Farm Sunday visitors had never been on a farm before – so what is obvious to you and me, may be fairly alien to your visitors! If your main event activity is a farm walk which is likely to be muddy, ask visitors to come ready to walk, know to wear wellington or walking boots, and to come with sun tan cream or waterproofs!

Start at the end!

It sounds strange, but the best way to tackle publicity is to first decide what you want to achieve:  how many visitors do you want; where they might come from; and how you are going to reach them.  Once sorted, then you can plan your communications accordingly.

FREE resources

Thanks to the national Open Farm Sunday sponsors, LEAF is able to produce a range of resources for you to promote your event.  Order them free of charge via the website www.farmsunday.org – you will need to log in to the system to place an order.

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Tailor your publicity to the scale of event you are organising

Size is everything!

You will need to adapt your publicity to the scale of event you are organising.

Small events:  If you want to host a very small event for a select group of people, opt to ‘hide’ your event so it does not appear on the Open Farm Sunday website.  Order the FREE Open Farm Sunday postcards which you can use to personally invite friends, neighbours, local interest groups, parish councillors, etc. Ask people to RSVP to give you an idea of how many people will attend.

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Use local networks to promote your event

Medium sized events:  Promote your event in the parish magazine, on village websites. Order FREE Open Farm Sunday A5 flyers and A4 posters to overprint with your event details and distribute locally. Use local networks such as the Scouts, WI, Rotary Club, conservation groups, etc.  Contact local primary schools and ask if you can provide promotional text to go in the school e-newsletter to parents or if they will put an event flyer into each child’s school book bag.

Larger events:  You will need to start early and carry out plenty of promotional activity. Use the Open Farm Sunday flyers and posters and distribute them widely.  Promote your event in local ‘What’s on guides’.  Adapt the template press release and distribute it with a great ‘on farm’ photograph to local and regional newspapers and magazines, your regional TV and radio stations.  Put up Open Farm Sunday road-side banners a couple of weeks before the event.  Use social media to reach out to local communities and spread the word.

Make sure you do enough!

As a general rule, invite twice as many people to get the numbers you want.

A clear event description

When promoting your event on posters, websites, etc, give visitors a clear idea of what to expect.  They will want to know what they can see and do on the farm. If refreshments will be available or if they can bring a picnic.  If dogs are welcome or not.  Whether your event is wheelchair friendly.  Will there be any charges or is the whole event free.  Most importantly, if it rains will the event go ahead and how much will be under cover.

Of course, don’t forget to use some marketing flair:  a farm walk can be packaged as a ‘Farm Safari’!  A fun photograph of a cute animal will appeal to many.

Planning

Don’t forget some publicity tactics require long lead times, such as adding an entry to a ‘What’s on’ guide in a monthly magazine, or getting a feature into a parish magazine.  Other activities are more immediate – it can take minutes to set up a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account and you can tap into the power of social media to swiftly have your event promoted, shared and liked by hundreds of people.  It is conceivable that if you unwittingly post something that is far more of a draw than you imagined, you could end up with more people than you bargained for.  However, in my experience this has never happened – but consider what you post before clicking ‘post’!

ofs-colour-2017-datedLEAF Open Farm Sunday is farming’s annual open day and takes place on the 11thJune 2017.  Register your event and order FREE resources here .  To find a farm that’s open near you click here. Remember to tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

 

Getting started with LEAF Open Farm Sunday

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Doing LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time can seem daunting.  But it doesn’t need to be. With a bit of planning, help on the day and support from LEAF, opening your farm to visitors can be hugely rewarding.  Philip Gorringe, OFS regional co-ordinator for the West Midlands and experienced host farmer explains more…

In the cold light of January, while the memories of mince pies and mistletoe are fading, the decision to register the farm for Open Farm Sunday can feel something of a challenge.  Farms rarely look their best at this time of year and mine is no exception.  However, starting to plan the day and putting my thoughts in order soon combats the doubts.

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Farms come in all shapes and sizes. With some basic planning all are suitable for a public visit.

For me, collaboration is the key tool in clarifying what needs addressing and how. By talking to other farmers and friends, some of whom have opened their farm successfully before, my confidence is soon restored.  My perception that everyone else’s farms are brand new, perfectly manicured examples of model farmyards is soon dispelled. Farms come in all shapes and sizes and the vast majority are, with some basic planning, entirely suitable for a public visit.

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Collaboration is key to a successful Open Farm Sunday event

In my experience, the two most common anxieties seem to be health and safety and ‘Will I be overwhelmed with visitors?’.  I find it helpful to remind myself that Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity for the public to visit my farm on my terms rather than theirs.  Although it is important to keep visitors safe, we all have areas on the farm that we would rather they don’t see or are impossible to make safe.  My ‘in stock’ spare machinery, (some may say scrap), is unsightly and potentially hazardous if people had access to it.  My chemical shed and workshop are not ideal and my concrete yard should have been completely resurfaced ten years ago.

However, it is perfectly acceptable to restrict the areas that visitors have access to.  I have found that they are not necessarily expecting the ‘brochure’ farmyard, they are just keen to hear my story about my farm.  They fully realise it is a working environment, not designed in the first instance for public access.

I also find the impetus that Open Farm Sunday gives me to instigate some tidying up is a positive one.  Remember also that while the farm can look a bit glum in January, by June it is green and hopefully with a sunny day, the whole outlook is changed.  In my experience, some time and thought is very well spent in planning food, hygiene and the order in which people are directed around the farm.  The guidelines provided by LEAF make this easy and inexpensive.  Again, I have found collaboration to be key; by getting the local WI to provide teas and cake for charity, I fully complied with legislation and raised some money for a local good cause.  Engaging friends and neighbours to help with parking, contingency plans and so forth all help to spread my workload on the day.

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Organise your Open Farm Sunday event to suit you and your farm

In terms of the fear of being overwhelmed with visitors, I talked to other host farmers and OFS staff and found their knowledge and experience invaluable. LEAF’s Host Farmer Handbook is full of useful information on the right level of promotion for the number of likely visitors.  I was able to arrange contingencies for parking and traffic to give me a reasonable margin of error and talking to others, reminded me that  problems in this area are extremely rare and really only apply to TV celebrities!

My insurance company were very supportive and also had a wealth of helpful information as did most of our suppliers and contacts who were keen to help and offer advice and experience.

Overall, my main piece of advice to anyone doing Open Farm Sunday for the first time is: start small and organise your event to suit you and your farm.  Then give yourself time and space to enjoy the experience. By accepting help from others, I found I thoroughly enjoyed telling my own story to people who were fascinated by my world without having to worry whether the cake had run out or someone had mislaid their car keys!

ofs-colour-2017-datedOpen Farm Sunday is on the 11th June 2017. Register here to find out more and get involved and tune into our OFS Bitesize webinars  for ideas, information and top tips on hosting a great event.

About the author:

Philip runs the family farm in west Herefordshire. The farm specialises in herbage, cereal and vining pea seed production and has a herd of single suckler beef cattle. Philip’s wife Heather runs a mail order birdseed (all supplied and packed by the farm) and ancillaries business, Wiggly Wigglers together with a mail order florist, The Great British Florist, supplying UK grown flowers only, some of which are grown on the farm.

 

Open Farm Sunday: reaching out to our customers

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!

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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 www.farmsunday.org and follow us on Twitter @openfarmsunday

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

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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

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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.
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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 www.farmingismagic.co.uk

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: www.farmsunday.org or email: openfarmsunday@leafuk.org

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. 

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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.

Insurance

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

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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.
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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 www.farmsunday.org

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: www.farmsunday.org or email: openfarmsunday@leafuk.org

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