Andrew Bailey, Moulton College, Northants
Moulton College in Northamptonshire currently farms 509 hectares. All this land is farmed commercially and used extensively for teaching purposes to support the college’s aim of providing high quality, practical education and training with a commercial focus. Crops grown include winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, malting barley, short and long-term leys and stubble turnips for autumn sheep. Whilst the college is often open to the public for careers evenings, before taking part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday in 2017, the farm itself had not opened to the public for a number of years. Andrew Bailey, Assistant Director of Student Services, explains more...
FE College, Beef, Sheep and Arable
Igniting interest in agriculture
We wanted to hold an event that was entirely focused on agriculture and to promote the exciting career opportunities in the sector. Getting involved in a well-established national initiative like LEAF Open Farm Sunday we felt would be a good way to improve local awareness of the college and raise understanding of agriculture in general. We also liked the idea of getting much younger children through our gates to ignite their interest in farming!
A quality experience
Giving visitors a professional, quality and safe experience was our main focus. A key part of this was controlling visitor numbers so, using Eventbrite online ticketing service, we allocated spaces to the first 45 families to book on. This helped us ensure we had adequate staff, parking facilities and enough refreshments. Another essential part of our planning was completing the risk assessments on all activities, paying particular attention to potential biohazards for pregnant women as sheep would be present. We cordoned off the mechanised areas from the personnel areas and planned the tractor and trailer route, so it did not cross the pedestrian or parking areas. We were also very strict with enforcement! Handwashing facilities were provided all over the event and all visitors came through one entry point for foot dipping and handwashing.
Early planning pays off
The decision to open up the farm wasn’t taken lightly. Due to the high-risk nature of the farm, we had some health and safety concerns, particularly having much younger visitors onsite. We were able to draw on the experience and expertise of our large staff and set up a Project Group at the outset which included our Estates Manager, Farm Manager, Marketing Executive and academic staff. In the end, we had a team of twelve which was quite an investment of time and resources, but it certainly paid off.
A community event
We really wanted to open up the world of farming to the whole community and involve people of all ages. All visitors went on the tractor and trailer ride and we ran a crop identification quiz linked to the tour. Our sheep flock were another big attraction and we put on sheep shearing demonstrations and visitors were able to have a go at feeding them. Various craft activities were available for younger children which kept them busy and engaged and information boards located around the site gave more in-depth information about our various enterprises. We also had demonstrations from the specialist animal evacuation team from Northamptonshire Fire Service which proved to be a big hit with visitors. Light refreshments were also available free of charge for visitors to dip into as they wanted – all greatly appreciated!
Enthusiasm for agriculture
The comments from visitors both during the day and after it have been amazing. Meeting new people and seeing their enthusiasm and interest for agriculture and the opportunities in the industry has been extremely rewarding. Planning is the key to running a successful LEAF Open Farm Sunday event – the devil really is in the detail! Always bear the customer in mind and the quality of the experience you offer. After that, things like health and safety become very easy to manage. Above all, take time to enjoy it!
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