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David and Joanna Lomas, Street Farm, Tarvin, Cheshire, North West

David, Joanna and their son, Michael run Street Farm in Tarvin, Cheshire - a family-run dairy farm selling milk to a commercial dairy in Manchester as well as directly from the farm gate through a vending machine. The family had never opened the farm before and took part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2017. Here, Joanna shares with us their first experience of hosting a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event…

Dairy farm | North West | 380 visitors

Bring­ing peo­ple clos­er to farming

I had always want­ed to do LEAF Open Farm Sun­day, but David had always been reluc­tant. He thought we did not have that much to offer, but hav­ing peo­ple come through the gate to use the milk vend­ing machine has helped to change his mind. 

We did not real­ly know what to expect so went into the whole thing just want­i­ng to show peo­ple what we do and what goes into pro­duc­ing a litre of milk. Nowa­days peo­ple don’t have any con­nec­tion with farm­ing and lit­tle under­stand­ing of where their food comes from. For us, tak­ing part in LEAF Open Farm Sun­day was all about doing what we can to change this. 

We got togeth­er as a fam­i­ly to talk about the kind of event we want­ed to run, signed up in Feb­ru­ary and my daugh­ter and I did most of the organ­is­ing. It was a lot eas­i­er than we thought! 

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Mak­ing it safe 

Health and Safe­ty was a big con­cern. I enlist­ed the help of a friend who is respon­si­ble for Health and Safe­ty at an agri­cul­tur­al col­lege. She vis­it­ed the farm, looked over it with a pair of fresh (and crit­i­cal) eyes and alert­ed me to any poten­tial risks. The H&S risk assess­ment form in the Open Farm Sun­day Hand­book was also real­ly help­ful as a reminder of all the areas we need­ed to pay atten­tion to. Despite our ini­tial wor­ries, it turned out to be quite straight forward. 

Our event

We thought we would have any­thing between 50 and 250 vis­i­tors – in the end we had 380. We pro­mot­ed the event in all our local schools by putting up a poster and the schools also emailed details to par­ents. Our con­cerns about not hav­ing much to offer vis­i­tors could not have been more wrong. We cre­at­ed posters of milk­ing times and rou­tines, planned a tour route and had a des­ig­nat­ed meet­ing and greet­ing’ area. We offered milk­ing demon­stra­tions (select­ing cows that wouldn’t be upset by vis­i­tors), guess the weight of a calf’ com­pe­ti­tion and a trac­tor and trail­er ride – which was very pop­u­lar. Our local NFU rep­re­sen­ta­tive came with their tour­ing van and also ran a milk shy’. 

LEAF pro­vid­ed a lot of sup­port and free resources which were great for us as first-time host farm­ers. Two of the key things I picked up from one of their webi­na­rs was to get as many helpers on the day as pos­si­ble and that peo­ple will arrive early!

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On the day 

I asked friends and fam­i­ly to arrive an hour ear­ly and allo­cat­ed a job to each one. We had lots of great dis­cus­sion and ques­tions from vis­i­tors and they were gen­uine­ly fas­ci­nat­ed in what we do. The whole event was real­ly reward­ing – we were amazed by how inter­est­ed and pos­i­tive every­one was. Hav­ing start­ed off quite hes­i­tant­ly about doing LEAF Open Farm Sun­day, we are now already plan­ning this year’s event. You just need to start small, get as much help as you can and just give it a go. You don’t need to have lots of activ­i­ties, peo­ple just want to see farm­ing as it is.

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