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Ian and David Collison, J A Collison & Sons, Kings Lynn, Norfolk

Ian, Diane and Philip Collison from family-run cut flower supplier, J A Collison & Sons decided to keep their Open Farm Sunday event small and simple.

30 visitors 'invitation only' event

We saw Open Farm Sun­day as a great way to show a few local groups and neigh­bours what we do” explains Diane. We did­n’t want hun­dreds of peo­ple and did­n’t real­ly have time to organ­ise spe­cial activ­i­ties or put much effort into pro­mot­ing our event. But we def­i­nite­ly want­ed to take part. The great thing about Open Farm Sun­day is that you can organ­ise an event that is right for you. And because we host vis­its through­out the year, it just seemed a nat­ur­al exten­sion of what we were doing already. Plus, it was a great way to spread the word local­ly about our flower business!”

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We did our first Open Farm Sun­day event in 2011 and invit­ed the local WI and the Marsh­land Soci­ety. The year after, we did the same for the Scouts and a few friends and neigh­bours. We had about twen­ty vis­i­tors last year and it was great to be able to walk them around the busi­ness, dis­cuss what we do and answer their ques­tions. Show­ing them the jour­ney of a young plant right through to the fin­ished prod­uct of a bunch of flow­ers in a cel­lo­phane sleeve was very rewarding!

My advice to any­one think­ing about tak­ing part for the first time is that it’s not a big a deal as you think it’s going to be. Just go with the group that you feel most com­fort­able with. If peo­ple come along then they’ll be inter­est­ed in what you do so they’ll lis­ten and that makes it all real­ly worthwhile.”

Top tips

Promotion: we just did it by word of mouth. Contacted the local Chairman of the groups we wanted and just asked them along!

Planning: not much planning involved at all. We host visits anyway, so we followed our usual format.

Help on the day: we ran the event between the three of us – myself, husband and brother in law, Ian who is very accustomed to speaking to different groups and the local media.

Activities: we kept things really simple. It was just a simple walk around the greenhouses, looking at the pollen and nectar areas and the reservoirs. We ran the pollinator survey last year, which got visitors involved and organised a small table and display area with booklets, giveaways and some photos of the farm over the years.

Health & Safety: no special health and safety required, just our usual risk assessment and being aware of potential hazards.

Finances: no real costs from the day, apart from a few boxes of biscuits and some bottles of squash!

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