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Abi Reader, Goldsland Farm, Glamorganshire

Abi Reader is a third generation dairy farmer who manages a herd of 180 Holstein Friesian and Dairy Shorthorns in Glamorganshire, South Wales. Abi always looks for ways to educate people and has mentored many agricultural and veterinary students on Goldsland Farm, Wenvoe. For someone who claims she is ‘not really a people person’, her passion for finding ways to reach out to consumers is remarkable – including speaking with Chris Evans live on his Radio 2 breakfast show! Here’s her story about taking part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time…

310 visitors | Dairy farm

Being involved in the SOS Dairy Campaign of 2012 opened my eyes to how you can influence people in the food chain and how obvious it was that people really do want to know more about where their food comes from.  I believe that every child (and adult for that matter) should have the right to see and experience a farm and understand the work, care and respect that goes into running one.  Having now been involved in several events and campaigns to get our dairy farming messages out there, I find these opportunities very enjoyable and rewarding – I even get Christmas cards from some of the people I have met!  In my opinion we shouldn’t be complaining about consumers not understanding our industry; we should be getting out there and doing something about it!

My LEAF Open Farm Sunday experience

I ran our first LEAF Open Farm Sunday event on our farm in 2014.  Initially the thought of opening up the farm to the public was terrifying.  But there was so much ready-made support out there that I felt encouraged to go ahead with it. 

What help is available?

I first registered our event at www.farmsunday.org.  The organisers LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) then send newsletters with ideas in the build up to the day.  They also provide loads of free resources – it’s all there for you!  You just have to choose the LEAF Open Farm Sunday items you think you can use and then order them – from posters to t-shirts and giveaways – then they arrive in the post – dead easy and free!  Using the handbook sent to me we started planning our event and chose to make scarecrows and nature plates.  The scarecrows cost nothing, just wood and old clothes.  The nature plates cost no more than £10 because we bought paper plates, glue and a few craft bits for colour.  We also bought in small prizes (farm pencil and notebook) for the children that completed a task.

I also contacted my local Environmental Health team to get some advice on how to ensure we got our health and safety right on the day.  They were brilliant and came out in advance to see how they could help – they offered portable sinks so that we could ensure handwashing facilities were available for all our visitors.

How did the actual day go?

The day went really well.  We had 310 visitors.  As well as the tour of the farm, the nature plate and scarecrow building activities were a big success, letting the children use their imagination.  You can see some of the scarecrows here!  

In addition to help from various friends, Young Farmers, colleagues and students, I also invited our local veterinary surgery to get involved.  They came along and ran a simple refreshments stall and also had their own promotional stand there.  It was interesting to see that whilst LEAF Open Farm Sunday events are free to attend, my visitors were keen to make a donation of some kind.  On the spur of the moment, during our day, we put a charity bucket out for people to make voluntary donations if they wanted to – this also worked really well.  With all the advanced support and help on the day, the event was extremely cheap to run; the biggest cost was the provision of portaloos which cost around £80 to hire.

What feedback did you receive?

We had very positive feedback on the day with lots of visitors saying they would like to come back again.  I guess the most satisfying moment for me came five months later when I was on a train to London and a complete stranger came over to me.  Her children had pointed out the ‘cow lady’ to her and she wanted to come and tell me what a great and memorable day they had all had!

LEAF Open Farm Sunday is really easy to organise and such a rewarding event for dairy farmers to get involved in.  It definitely goes a long way to connect with local people and help them gain an understanding of the world of dairy farming, and where their dairy products come from.

Footnote

Abi finds the experience so rewarding she takes part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday each year.  In 2017, Abi helped with national publicity and was the surprise guest for Chris Evans to interview live on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show a few days before LEAF Open Farm Sunday.  Her public facing educational activity doesn’t stop there!  She has also been involved in a campaign to take farming experiences and messages to city school children, including a visit to an inner city school in London which made national news!

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