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Farmers are having huge impact on public perception, LEAF Open Farm Sunday figures reveal

Farmers who invite the public onto their farms are having a lasting positive impact, with nearly 90% of visitors in 2018 saying it has changed the way they think about farming.

This is 12% up on last year, accord­ing to a sur­vey of vis­i­tors to LEAF Open Farm Sun­day (LOFS) events in 2018, col­lect­ed by LEAF, the char­i­ty which pro­motes sus­tain­able food and farm­ing and man­ages the campaign.

Nine­ty-two per­cent of peo­ple said they appre­ci­at­ed more the work farm­ers do, after vis­it­ing a farm.

Eighty-six per­cent said they felt more con­nect­ed to the farm­ers who pro­duced their food, and 78% said they were now more proac­tive­ly look­ing to buy British food.

In 2018, 26% of farm­ers who took part in LOFS did so for the first time – the high­est num­ber to date.

These fig­ures show just how pow­er­ful it is when farm­ers open their farms to the pub­lic,” said Annabel Shack­le­ton, LEAF OFS Manager. 

There is a high lev­el of inter­est in food pro­duc­tion but unfor­tu­nate­ly we have seen a lot of mis­in­for­ma­tion about farm­ing in the media.

When farm­ers engage with the pub­lic, peo­ple can see for them­selves the care and atten­tion to detail that goes into grow­ing qual­i­ty, nutri­tious crops and the high lev­els of ani­mal wel­fare. LEAF Open Farm Sun­day is pos­i­tive­ly chang­ing pub­lic per­cep­tions of our indus­try. That is why we are call­ing on more farm­ers to come togeth­er in 2019; to open their farms on the 9th of June — togeth­er we can show peo­ple across the UK what our indus­try achieves and why British farm­ing is so important. 

This is going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant if we leave the EU – British farm­ing will need the full sup­port of the pub­lic, added Ms Shackleton.

The theme for LEAF Open Farm Sun­day 2019 is get clos­er to farm­ing” focus­ing on the peo­ple involved – the farm­ing fam­i­lies, the teams of tech­ni­cal experts across the UK involved in pro­duc­ing our food, man­ag­ing the coun­try­side and our nat­ur­al resources. 

It is going to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant to have con­sumers on our side if we exit the EU — British farm­ing will need the full sup­port of the pub­lic, added Mrs Shackleton. 

No mat­ter how big or small an event, every farmer engag­ing with the pub­lic counts, said Ms Shackleton. 

Get­ting farm­ing into minds

Farm­ing is more at the fore­front of people’s minds after vis­it­ing a farm, accord­ing to the sur­vey feedback. 

One vis­i­tor in 2018 said: 

It has opened up many con­ver­sa­tions with the younger peo­ple in our fam­i­ly, who now appre­ci­ate where their food and drinks come from.”

Anoth­er said: 

We now look for stan­dards of meat pro­duced and where meat in sand­wich­es has come from — we buy more free range and from farm­ers and mar­kets where there is no mid­dle­man’. We sup­port local farm­ers by buy­ing local milk.”

While anoth­er said: 

I often talk to my young girls about our day at the farm and whilst dri­ving through the coun­try­side we are able to under­stand more about wildlife cor­ri­dors, and the work that the farm­ers do with­in the fields.”

View from a farmer

Farmer Tere­sa Pick­worth, who along with her hus­band, Carl, farms a 380-acre arable farm in North War­wick­shire, is about to run her third LOFS event next year. From the start, Tere­sa aimed to attract a large num­ber of vis­i­tors wel­com­ing 1,053 vis­i­tors in her first year and 2,500 the year after. 

Every farmer should con­sid­er tak­ing part in LEAF Open Farm Sun­day to show how diverse farm­ing is and how much skill is required to farm,” said Ms Pickworth.

We have gained so much from Open Farm Sun­day. We used it as a mar­ket­ing exer­cise to see if our diver­si­fi­ca­tion plan for a tea room and edu­ca­tion­al walks would work, which proved to be a real success.

We’ve learnt how to engage with the pub­lic and our local com­mu­ni­ty. Chil­dren love iden­ti­fy­ing the good/​bad bugs and adults are sur­prised to learn how much care goes into the use of chem­i­cals and how they are used to a min­i­mum along­side oth­er meth­ods such as crop rota­tion, ground work and good bugs.”

Since LEAF OFS start­ed 13 years ago, almost 2,000 farm­ers have host­ed events and wel­comed more than 2.2 mil­lion onto their farms — with 293,650 vis­it­ing in 2018.

How farm­ers can sign up and get support

  • Reg­is­ter for LEAF Open Farm Sun­day 2019 here. Once reg­is­tered you will be sent a copy of the LOFS hand­book, which walks you through plan­ning an event and gives tips, activ­i­ty ideas, and essen­tial guid­ance on health and safety. 
  • Check out our YouTube Live events, which will pro­vide men­tor­ing from pre­vi­ous hosts and an online com­mu­ni­ca­tions toolk­it offer­ing tried-and-test­ed ways to engage pos­i­tive­ly with the public. 
  • Keep an eye on Twit­ter — host farm­ers will be tak­ing over the LEAF OFS account to share their expe­ri­ence, top tips and views from the farm. Use the hash­tag #FarmShoutOut to help cel­e­brate farm­ers who engage well with the public. 
  • If you want to speak with some­one about your event, call the LOFS team on 024 7641 3911 or email: [email protected]​leafuk.​org

NEW to LOFS or still not sure about tak­ing part, order a FREE infor­ma­tion pack

To help farm­ers con­sid­er­ing host­ing their first LOFS event on 9th June, there is a new infor­ma­tion pack which gives farm­ers a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how they can take part and guid­ance on tak­ing the first steps to organ­is­ing an event. The pack can be down­loaded here or ordered direct from LEAF 024 76413911

Click here to view the full press release.

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