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
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.
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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