Mark Coulman, Hall Farm, Lincolnshire
Mark Coulman runs Hall Farm, a 235 hectare enterprise near Eastoft in Lincolnshire. It holds 2,000 fattening pigs as well as a number of alpacas and chickens. A variety of crops are also grown including winter wheat, sugar beet, potatoes and oilseed rape. The farm is also run as a care farm and education facility. Mark tells us about his first LEAF Open Farm Sunday event in 2017.
235 hectare enterprise | Eastoft
Growing Our Business
Increasing people’s awareness of farming and where their food comes is at the heart of our business. We have run educational visits for schools through our stewardship scheme for a long time and were looking at ways to develop the care farm and professionalising the educational side of the business. LEAF Open Farm Sunday seemed a natural fit.
We decided to take part in March which really coincided with us starting to promote our care farm and education facility. Social media was the main way we promoted the event – mostly on Facebook but some on Twitter. On the back of this we received some good local press coverage.
A Helping Hand
We really wanted to involve the whole community and were keen to give visitors a broad flavour of our farm as well as farming in general. Family and friends were a big help on the day and we also approached organisations such as RSPB and FWAG who ran guided nature walks. The local Farmcare farm lent us some of their farm machinery which we had on display and one of their staff drove the tractor for the trailer ride. Our local butcher lent us some of his sheep and the school Parent Teachers Association ran refreshments. Getting other community groups involved was a fantastic way to spread the workload and add to our overall offer on the day.
The free resources from LEAF were great and we ordered most of those including the Science on the Farm posters. I would definitely recommend to other farmers that they make full use of the free resources on offer. Our regional land agency, J H Walter were kind enough to help print our event details onto the flyers so that helped keep costs down.
Health & Safety
We already had handwashing and toilet facilities and felt reasonably on the ball with regards to health and safety because of our experience with running visits to our education facility and care farm. For anyone with concerns, the health and safety checklist at the back of the Open Farm Sunday Handbook, which all farmers receive when they sign up, is a great place to start. It’s all about common sense really and just a few straightforward precautions are all that’s needed.
Counting the Pennies
We were keen to run a free event so didn’t change for entry or any of the activities. We had lots of comments from visitors saying how brilliant the day was and that they would have been happy to pay for things. So next time, we are considering making a small charge for the tractor and trailer ride and perhaps running a plant sale and tombola and selling fresh produce boxes. For us, doing Open Farm Sunday wasn’t about raising money but rather raising awareness of our business, what we offer and farming in general.
In The Spotlight We received so much positive feedback from people who came along and it was good to know that they really appreciated the day and now have a much better idea of what we do. We’re already signed up for LOFS 2018 – I’d encourage all farmers to get involved. It makes sense to raise the profile of the farming industry and to talk to your customers; it makes good business sense too to put yourselves in the spotlight of your local community.
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