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Jane and Adam Mason, Lyne Mhor Croft, near Gorthleck

Lyne Mhor Croft near Gorthleck, 22 miles north of Inverness is run by Jane Mason and her husband, Adam, with their focus on producing and promoting “farm to fork” produce from their rare breed animals. First opening their gates for LEAF Open Farm Sunday in 2016, the small croft stretches no further than three and a half acres and Jane tells us why no farm is too big, or, in this case too small to open their gates and host the event.

150 visitors | Croft | 3.5 acres

Our Enter­prise

The croft is home to our four breed­ing sows includ­ing the Oxford, Sandy and Black breeds. We pro­duce young stock which we fin­ish on the farm and then sell the pork at var­i­ous local mar­kets as well as through adver­tis­ing on our social media page. We also pro­duce goat’s meat from our Toggen­burg goats, lamb from our Tex­el cross sheep and sell eggs from our ducks and hens. 

Putting us on the map

We orig­i­nal­ly signed up LEAF Open Farm Sun­day to show the pub­lic what rur­al life is like and to help try and pro­mote our busi­ness. We also see the event as a great way to inter­act with our local com­mu­ni­ty and give them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be involved and show­case their businesses. 

Plan­ning

It is nev­er too ear­ly to start plan­ning; we always start by look­ing at the lay­out of the croft and where we are going to hold the activ­i­ties and car park­ing. Adver­tis­ing doesn’t need to cost any­thing, we have found that social media, posters sup­plied by LEAF Open Farm Sun­day and ban­ners have been very effec­tive. Get­ting the pro­mo­tion out as soon as pos­si­ble helps get spread the word. We have received great sup­port from LEAF who can pro­vide you with infor­ma­tion, sig­nage and tools to use at the event. The best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

We have a bril­liant small team of helpers includ­ing fam­i­ly, friends and mem­bers of the local com­mu­ni­ty. They are always full of ideas and enthu­si­asm, mak­ing our events run smoothly. 

The biggest wor­ry for me before our first LEAF Open Farm Sun­day was the safe­ty and well­be­ing of the pub­lic and our ani­mals. LEAF offer a range of sup­port mate­ri­als includ­ing the host hand­book and a tem­plate risk assess­ment that real­ly helped address these wor­ries. We also make sure we had run­ning water and toi­lets, so our vis­i­tors could wash their hands after touch­ing the ani­mals. Make sure these are booked well in advance and con­firm with the com­pa­ny sup­ply­ing them clos­er to the time. 

Effec­tive engage­ment with the public 

To make the event suc­cess­ful and enjoy­able it is impor­tant to plan activ­i­ties in advance that your vis­i­tors can engage in what­ev­er their age. I would rec­om­mend keep­ing them sim­ple so that your helpers can man­age them and you don’t need to add lots of new ele­ments to your day. Many of the activ­i­ties can be things you are already doing on the farm or croft. An exam­ple of this is our kids feed­ing kids” activ­i­ty. We sim­ply let the chil­dren come along and have a go at feed­ing our kid goats – it has gone down a treat the last cou­ple of years. 

You could also ask if any­one in the local com­mu­ni­ty would like to run an activ­i­ty. The local fire brigade come along with their fire engine, and let the pub­lic have a go at using the big hoses. Our younger vis­i­tors also love to sit inside the vehicle. 

You don’t have to offer cater­ing but we like to pro­mote the whole farm to fork process, so we cook our own sausages, and offer home­made scones and cream. 

Increas­ing local profile

Our busi­ness has grown since host­ing LEAF Open Farm Sun­day events, mak­ing it extreme­ly worth­while for us and for the local com­mu­ni­ty. How­ev­er, the most reward­ing thing for us as hosts and what real­ly con­vinced us to con­tin­ue host­ing LEAF Open Farm Sun­day was the fact peo­ple actu­al­ly turned up! 

In our first year we had 70 vis­i­tors and in year two around 140. In 2018 we wel­comed 150. This is a great achieve­ment for us due to our remote loca­tion. Watch­ing the pub­lic out on the croft, smil­ing and enjoy­ing their day is the best reward of all. Many return year after year with their friends and fam­i­ly and we have already had peo­ple ask­ing if we are doing the event again this year. 


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