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Jamie McCoy, Gorwel Farm

Jamie McCoy and her partner Deian Evans run Gorwel Farm in Bryngwyn, West Wales. Gorwel is a family farm, milking 170 dairy cows on an autumn calving grass-based system, they have a flock of 150 commercial sheep, and a very small pig enterprise. Jamie also works off the farm for AHDB Dairy supporting dairy farmers to improve business competitiveness and is our OFS Coordinator for Wales. Here is her story…

Mixed farm

Com­mu­ni­ty Connections 

For us, a big part of decid­ing to take part in Open Farm Sun­day was to con­nect with our local com­mu­ni­ty. Although we live in a rur­al area, many peo­ple are unaware of what goes on in the fields around them. With­out a vil­lage shop or pub, there is no nat­ur­al place for peo­ple to con­vene. So, Open Farm Sun­day was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to cre­ate an event for the whole com­mu­ni­ty and bring them clos­er to farming. 

Our biggest con­cern was whether peo­ple would actu­al­ly come along! Liv­ing in rur­al West Wales, we thought that every­one would have a con­nec­tion with farm­ing so why would they come to a farm open day! Being a pas­tur­al farm, we also won­dered whether we would have enough to show peo­ple. How wrong we were! We spoke to lots of peo­ple before­hand who assured us that it didn’t mat­ter how basic the day was, for vis­i­tors it was some­thing dif­fer­ent to do. So, we decid­ed to take the plunge and I am so glad we did. 

Shar­ing our Story 

We want­ed to show the real­i­ties of run­ning a small, mixed farm. We put on milk­ing demon­stra­tions, a sta­t­ic machin­ery dis­play, had a sim­ple nature table with binoc­u­lars for peo­ple to use, vis­i­tors were also able to get close to our sheep and calves and sit on a trac­tor – a huge hit with both chil­dren and parents! 

Help­ing peo­ple make the con­nec­tion between what hap­pens on a mixed farm in West Wales and what they see on the super­mar­ket shelves, was a big moti­va­tion for get­ting involved in Open Farm Sun­day. As we sup­ply our milk to Arla, we had an Arla tast­ing table just out­side the milk­ing par­lour so when vis­i­tors had seen the cows being milked, they could taste some of the prod­ucts that our milk is turned into! 

We also ran a small café and cooked pan­cakes, so peo­ple could see the raw ingre­di­ents and taste the fin­ished prod­uct – again, a real­ly pow­er­ful way to help peo­ple make that vital food and farm­ing link. 

Fly­ing the flag for British Agriculture 

For us, doing Open Farm Sun­day was all about reach­ing out to our local com­mu­ni­ty and that is exact­ly what it has enabled us to do. Hand deliv­er­ing the invi­ta­tions, mak­ing con­tact with neigh­bours and telling them about our event was real­ly reward­ing. I think know­ing that we were putting on a free com­mu­ni­ty event sent out a very pow­er­ful mes­sage. Farm­ing neigh­bours who attend­ed also said how much they val­ued see­ing peo­ple they didn’t have reg­u­lar con­tact with. This is so impor­tant in a small rur­al community. 

There were many spe­cial moments on the day. See­ing people’s faces light up when they were with the ani­mals and expe­ri­enc­ing their sense of won­der at what we do was quite mem­o­rable. One lit­tle girl asked whether dol­phins lived in the slur­ry tank — a strong reminder that even in rur­al areas, there is a real need to raise aware­ness of farm­ing and food production. 

Our local com­mu­ni­ty now know us, we’re no longer those peo­ple just sit­ting in the trac­tor! They have an under­stand­ing of what we do, what’s going on in the fields, how much we prize ani­mal health and wel­fare, the lev­el of tech­nol­o­gy on the farm, know what I am doing when they see me walk­ing around with the plate meter. We have an ongo­ing rela­tion­ship with them – all year round. It has def­i­nite­ly giv­en us Brown­ie points’ for those dif­fi­cult times in the year when we are spread­ing slur­ry on a Sun­day afternoon! 

Lessons Learnt

Over­all every­one that came had a real­ly good day out and we will def­i­nite­ly be get­ting involved each year. We’re now turn­ing our minds to what we could do dif­fer­ent­ly next time. Here’s our five key lessons: 

  • Brief­ing helpers – it is essen­tial that key peo­ple are avail­able to answer ques­tions; brief­ing them thor­ough­ly before­hand on what you expect on the day and the key mes­sages you want to con­vey to vis­i­tors is so important. 
  • Timed Tours – every­one needs to go home hav­ing had their ques­tions answered so I would arrange tours for des­ig­nat­ed times and make sure vis­i­tors got some one-to-one time with me and my part­ner as we are the ones that know the sto­ry of this farm. 
  • Track­ing num­bers – we found it hard to keep track of exact vis­i­tor num­bers as the farm is so open — some peo­ple were able to sneak in! We opened between 12 and 4:30pm and esti­mate we had 120 vis­i­tors. Next time, we will keep a bet­ter track of vis­i­tor num­bers by cre­at­ing a bot­tle neck at the entrance and reg­is­ter­ing vis­i­tors on arrival. 
  • Fresh­en it up – vis­i­tors need to be enticed to vis­it again so it’s good to look at ways to keep your event fresh by putting on new activ­i­ties as well as retain­ing some core fea­tures. Next time, we’re look­ing at run­ning a welly wang­ing com­pe­ti­tion and brin­ing in a local bak­ing school to make dough and tell the grain to bread journey. 
  • Pho­tog­ra­phy – take lots of pho­tographs and del­e­gate this job to some­one spe­cif­ic so it happens. 

Open Farm Sun­day pro­vides a fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ty to give back to your com­mu­ni­ty and what bet­ter excuse to give the farm a deep clean and have a dead­line to work to. Get involved, enjoy it and fly the flag for British Agriculture! 

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