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.
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.”
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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