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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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