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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.

Dri­ving recognition 

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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