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Philip Chamberlain, Crowmarsh Battle Farms Ltd, Oxfordshire

Philip runs a 3,200 acre arable farm south east of Oxford, growing a range of combinable crops. He has been hosting visits to his farm since 1996 and each year hosts an 'invitation only' Open Farm Sunday event.

20 - 40 vistors, 'invitation only' event

On Open Farm Sun­day we lim­it num­bers to between 20 and 40 vis­i­tors. I have a trail­er which takes 20 peo­ple and I bor­row one from a neigh­bour if need­ed. Each year we invite a dif­fer­ent group of peo­ple. This year we are invit­ing Parish and Dis­trict Coun­cil­lors as well as the local MP. In the past, we’ve had a range of groups, includ­ing res­i­dents from our ham­let, a local com­mu­ni­ty asso­ci­a­tion and even our local quiz team and the teams from sur­round­ing vil­lages! I want to tell our sto­ry about how we farm sus­tain­ably – and these are the types of local peo­ple that I want to get our mes­sages across to.

Open Farm Sun­day is a great way to engage with your local com­mu­ni­ty and run­ning a small event means you can tai­lor your vis­it accord­ing­ly and get some great one to one dis­cus­sions going! Dur­ing the trac­tor and trail­er ride we stop at strate­gic points and I get off and explain more about what’s going on. It is very infor­mal with lots of time for ques­tions. We spend a lot of time talk­ing about pre­ci­sion farm­ing and always have a range of machin­ery on dis­play includ­ing a com­bine with grain trail­er under.

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We also explain the green waste com­poster and anaer­o­bic digester and explain how using organ­ic manure helps save resources and con­serve the world’s reserves of min­er­al fer­tilis­ers. Some­body rents a hectare of our land to grow organ­ic veg­eta­bles giv­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss this type of pro­duc­tion. There is always a lot of inter­est in our con­ser­va­tion activ­i­ties and the barn owl box­es, with res­i­dent owl, always gen­er­ates a lot of interest!

If you are think­ing about doing Open Farm Sun­day for the first time, just keep things sim­ple. I am not a fan of bring­ing in a lamb, pig or a chick to an event. When vis­i­tors come, I want to show them what my farm is all about and that I am proud of what I do.”

Top tips

Promotion: when inviting groups, such as the WI or Scouts, I just telephone the group leader and invite them along. When inviting individuals we send an invitation with an RSVP. For local residents, we walk around and post invitations through letterboxes – last time, on the way, I spoke to a couple of people and had 10 booked on before I got home!

Planning: ideally send out invitations 6 to 8 weeks in advance, but usually we leave it to the just 3 to 4 weeks notice, and we get the numbers we want.

Help on the day: the whole farm team including family and employees – 7 or 8 people.

Activities: we gather in our meeting room at 2pm, go on a tractor and trailer tour of the farm, and return to the meeting room for tea and cake after 4pm. We don’t put on any ‘entertainment’ for visitors – we put out a few posters and resources and have some scrap books from the past 120 years we’ve been farming here.

Resources: occasionally we order some leaflets for visitors and posters for displays.

Health & Safety: I have a health and safety plan for the whole event. The trailers we use are built to HSE standards and our staff are briefed on health and safety issues, such as making sure people are safe when climbing on machinery. The risk assessment is very simple - farmers fear it will be reams and reams, but basically all you are recording is common sense.

Finances: everything is FREE. We just ask for donations to charity at the end.

Questions: the more controversial the better! We welcome the chance to explain our views.

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