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Ali Capper, Stocks Farm, Herefordshire/Worcestershire

Ali Capper runs Stocks Farm, a 200 year old hop and fruit farm on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, in partnership with her husband and father in law. The farm has been in the Capper family for more than half a century and is proud to be one of the UK's leading hop producers. Part of their commitment to farming sustainably is to develop the family business in a way that involves and benefits the local community. Getting involved in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2017, was a key part of this. Ali Capper tells us more…

Hop and fruit farm | Herefordshire/Worcestershire | 200 visitors

Engag­ing the local community 

As a fam­i­ly busi­ness, we are always look­ing at ways to con­nect with our local com­mu­ni­ty and had been toy­ing with doing LEAF Open Farm Sun­day for a few years. One of the chal­lenges we face is that in June, our apples are very tiny and there are no hops to see, so we ques­tioned how we could demon­strate what we do. We’d done an open day for the past three years, but always dur­ing the har­vest in Sep­tem­ber when the farm is at its most dynam­ic. The turn­ing point came with the launch of our on-farm brew­ery so we had a great farm-to-glass’ sto­ry to tell!

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Grow­ing local profile

Our oth­er moti­va­tion for doing LEAF Open Farm Sun­day was to put our brew­ery on the local map and increase traf­fic through the door. We already had a rea­son­able pro­file, but were keen to be affil­i­at­ed with LEAF as so much of what they pro­mote around sus­tain­able farm­ing is in line with our own approach. As a busi­ness, align­ing our­selves with LEAF and ben­e­fit­ting from all the pub­lic­i­ty Open Farm Sun­day gen­er­ates was a def­i­nite win-win. 

Our event

Logis­tics were our biggest con­cern for the event itself. We decid­ed to keep it very tight and knew from expe­ri­ence that we had to deliv­er some­thing eas­i­ly under­stand­able. Vis­i­tors were split into three groups of about sev­en­ty peo­ple, but we could eas­i­ly have had more groups. We toured the hop fields, talked about how we farm hops and the chal­lenges around pests, dis­ease and weath­er. Vis­i­tors then went to the hop pick­ing machine and kiln to see how they are processed and dried before being baled for deliv­ery and final­ly into the Uni­ty Brew­house brew­ery where they met our Head Brew­er, Sarah Saleh who showed them dif­fer­ent tanks and talked about mash­ing-in and fer­men­ta­tion. We end­ed the tour with some sam­pling and had bot­tles of beer, apple juice and some of our home­brew hops on sale. We also set up tables out­side the brew­ery with edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als from LEAF, AHDB and the NFU which helped to enter­tain some of the chil­dren who came whilst par­ents sam­pled the beer. 

Car park­ing was anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion as we don’t have a large car park­ing area, so we utilised the hop yard and parked cars between orchard trees close to the road.We had helpers in high viz vests to ensure there were no acci­dents with vis­i­tors cross­ing the road. A neigh­bour offered his field for any over spill too. 

A help­ing hand

We were unsure on vis­i­tor num­bers so want­ed to make sure we had plen­ty of bod­ies on the ground to help. Eight mem­bers of staff, togeth­er with neigh­bours and rel­a­tives were on hand. We gave them a writ­ten brief which includ­ed top­ics such as health and safe­ty, fire, smok­ing etc. All helpers wore a flu­o­res­cent jack­et to make them eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able to vis­i­tors and each of the tour groups had a des­ig­nat­ed lead and a sweep­er up’ at the back. 

Pro­mo­tion

Pro­mo­tion was pre­dom­i­nant­ly through our entry on the LEAF Open Farm Sun­day web­site; we also issued a press release to two local news­pa­pers and put a fly­er in the doctor’s surgery. In the end, we had about 200 vis­i­tors, which was just about right. 

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Putting us on the map

There is no doubt that doing Open Farm Sun­day is a fan­tas­tic way to raise your local pro­file. We had lots of young fam­i­lies com­ing along so it was great to con­nect with them and the local pri­ma­ry school raised over £400 at our event. 

We nev­er stop being sur­prised by the reac­tion we get from vis­i­tors when they come to the farm, see what we’re doing, tell them about the super­mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tions we have to adhere to and what goes into mak­ing the per­fect pint. For most peo­ple, it comes as a real rev­e­la­tion. Being able to share what we are doing is real­ly reward­ing. We had lots of stim­u­lat­ing dis­cus­sion and ques­tions around val­ues, prices and costs; vis­i­tors gen­uine­ly want­ed to under­stand the farm’s rela­tion­ship with cus­tomers. LEAF Open Farm Sun­day pro­vides the per­fect plat­form for farm­ers to show­case the fan­tas­tic work they do. 

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