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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. 

Free Resources

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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