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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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