Rob and Alec Mercer, Packington Pork, Staffordshire
Packington Pork is one of the leading large-scale free-range pig businesses in the UK. Based just outside Lichfield in Staffordshire, the farm has held a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event for the last four years. Managing Director, Rob Mercer, tells us more about their event and how LEAF Open Farm Sunday is helping to raise the profile of the pig industry and encourage a new generation of farmers into the sector.
Livestock | Lichfield, Staffordshire
Promoting British farming
As a fourth-generation family business, taking part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday is all about giving back to the local community. It gives families a chance to visit our farm, free of charge, for a fun family day out and educate themselves and their children on agriculture and food production. Buying British-produced traceable food is so important as it gives customers the knowledge and reassurance of where their food is produced. LEAF Open Farm Sunday plays a big role in promoting British farming and hopefully, igniting young people’s interest in the wide range of career opportunities farming offers.
Early start to planning
We start thinking about our event in March – you can never be too early! We’ll talk about what we learnt from last year’s event, what changes we want to make, staffing, car parking and activities. Biosecurity is a particular consideration for any livestock farmer taking part in Open Farm Sunday, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. You just have to take a sensible approach and make sure that visitors are well supervised. A few simple measures are all that’s needed. Providing hand washing facilities, footbaths and shoe coverings, putting up signage reminding visitor to wash hands, marking off areas where visitors are not permitted and encouraging everyone to take personal responsibility for their own safety are the main things to consider. It’s just common sense really.
Spreading the word
We work with a lot of butchers in the local area and so use our links with them to publicise our event. In early May, we’ll put flyers and posters in all the local shops and make sure we get a mention in school newsletters. Twitter and Facebook are a big part of our promotion and we try to link up with the local press — we’ve even appeared on Radio 2 and in the Daily Mail! Because we want to attract a lot of visitors, we go big on promotion, but the good thing about LEAF Open Farm Sunday is that you choose what kind of event suits you and your farm – you can do as little or as much as you want.
A team effort
Around 15 staff get involved on the day and they are all given a specific job. Five of our best drivers will be allocated to the tractor and trailer rides and other staff will supervise car parking, foot dipping, farrowings, hand washing and activities. It’s a real team effort, all the staff get a lot out of being involved and interacting with visitors.
Pig farmers’ commitment to improving efficiency and animal welfare deserves recognition by consumers and everyone in the production chain. LEAF Open Farm Sunday plays a big part in helping to safeguard the future of our higher-welfare British pig industry. It is all about showing people what farmers do on their farms and helping people understand how their food is produced. We get a real buzz from talking to visitors, seeing them enjoying the day and knowing that they’ve learnt something. Being able to show people the care we take of our pigs, the space and enrichments we provide so they live happy, healthy lives, is hugely rewarding.
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