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Martin Kennedy, Lurgan Farm

Opening the farm gates to the public – I’ve got the bug writes NFUS Vice President Martin Kennedy.

200 visitors - first time host farmer.

In 2019, for the first time, we took part in Open Farm Sun­day which brought near­ly 200 peo­ple to Lur­gan Farm from the sur­round­ing area.

As it was our first time, we weren’t sure how many peo­ple would attend so it was great to see so many inter­est­ed in what hap­pens on a hill farm. The fact our event was so well sup­port­ed con­vinced us it is def­i­nite­ly in the diary for next year and hope­ful­ly the word will spread, and we will get a few more.

We had quite a vari­a­tion of things for peo­ple to see which includ­ed some pens of ewes and lambs, Con­ti­nen­tal ewes from our low­er ground, Cheviots from the mid­dle and Black­ies from the hill. It must be said though that the star attrac­tion on the sheep front was the two pet black­ie lambs, Bil­ly and Smudge who had an audi­ence all day.

Sandy Thom­son from West Park had a soils and sci­ence stand with soil analy­sis results where he explained to vis­i­tors why soil health is so impor­tant both in terms of its pro­duc­tive capac­i­ty and its abil­i­ty to store car­bon. He also had on dis­play sev­er­al dif­fer­ent seeds for peo­ple to guess what they were. This then linked to some of the machin­ery we had on dis­play show­ing how some oper­a­tions on farm are car­ried out.

As we are ten­ants on a shoot­ing estate, I asked the Scot­tish Game­keep­ers Asso­ci­a­tion if they would come along with a stand to high­light the ben­e­fits of the shoot­ing indus­try, with spe­cif­ic regard to assist­ing in bio­di­ver­si­ty and explain­ing why preda­tor con­trol is so vital to pro­tect many of our icon­ic species. They did a great job and along with our keep­ers here pro­vid­ing a UTV and an ATV, their stand was very pop­u­lar with the youngsters.

We had feed trail­ers at the ready for the farm tour which took just under an hour. The tour took peo­ple up to 1200ft to the bot­tom of the hill where it stopped, and Fin­lay McIn­tyre did an excel­lent job of explain­ing how the farm worked and how impor­tant it was for live­stock to be graz­ing our hill­sides. Ian Smith, the head keep­er on the estate, then also explained what’s all involved from a game­keep­ing per­spec­tive. A big hit for the pub­lic was see­ing the sheep and cat­tle on the tour, espe­cial­ly the High­land cows, who were par­tic­u­lar­ly oblig­ing by stay­ing not too far from the trailers.

Once the tour returned, the trail­ers dropped peo­ple off at the sheep shear­ing demon­stra­tion where Stew­art Kennedy did an excel­lent job of not only shear­ing but explain­ing what’s involved and what the wool is used for.

After that Kat­ri­na, our mid­dle daugh­ter, did a sheep­dog han­dling demon­stra­tion much to the delight of a very appre­cia­tive audience.

LEAF kind­ly pro­vid­ed many leaflets and posters for peo­ple to read and take in whilst enjoy­ing a cup of tea and a sand­wich pro­vid­ed by the young farmers.

All in all, it was a bril­liant day which end­ed with a bar­be­cue for every­one who helped dur­ing the day. Many thanks to them all and here’s to 2020.

Author: Mar­tin Kennedy

Date Pub­lished: 14/06/2019

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