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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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