Simon Day, Worth Farms, South Lincolnshire
Simon Day is Farm Manager at Worth Farms in Holbeach Marsh, South Lincolnshire, an all arable farm growing potatoes, vining peas, wheat, sugar beet, brassicas, salads and energy crops. As a LEAF Demonstration Farm, they have a long commitment of reaching out to the general public and promoting British agriculture and have been involved in LEAF Open Farm Sunday since it started in 2006. Simon shares his experiences in running a large event and explains the value of Open Farm Sunday in building community relations and raising the profile of the farming industry...
Showcasing British Agriculture
As a business we are passionate about promoting British agriculture and the work farmers do to protect and manage the countryside. We have been a LEAF Demonstration Farm since 1997 so doing Open Farm Sunday seemed the natural next step. It’s a great way of showcasing our industry and showing how we produce the food that everyone eats, the work that goes into producing it and the standards and safety involved.
Open Farm Sunday is a great way of interacting with your local community and getting them onside. They will go past the farm drive and never get a chance to come and see what actually goes on here. If we can explain how we’re doing things and why we’re doing things, it gives us an easier ride for the rest of the year if we don’t quite get things right!
Planning For Success
Our first planning meeting generally takes place in mid-February. We have a team of people involved and because we’re a 20 hectare site with multiple business units on it, the initial meeting includes the potato packing unit, Manor Fresh and the group’s Health and Safety coordinator. We will explain to them what we’re planning, space requirements and what areas will need to be cleared. We use the minutes and notes from last year’s event as the basis for the meeting and make sure we draw up a clear action list. We will also contact people who ran stands at previous events and confirm whether they want to be involved again.
Spreading The Word
We utilise all the free resources on offer from LEAF and adapt the poster to fit our open day, which we distribute to local schools. Social media is a big promotional tool – we link up with local Facebook groups, use Twitter as well as do a big splash on our own website. I also contribute articles to a local newspaper three or four times a year, so they covered the event as well. Just think about the amount of visitors you want and plan your promotion around that.
Something For Everyone
As an all arable farm, we generally bring in animals from neighbouring farms. But farmers with just crops to show, should not think they have to do this. In my experience, people are fascinated to hear about what you grow, what the crops are used for and to see the machinery you use.
We try to involve a lot of our suppliers on the day who offer activities ranging from pollinator quizzes, pea harvesting and machinery demonstrations; our gamekeeper comes along with decoys and traps and talks to visitors about wildlife conservation and vermin control. The AD plant on site is open for people to look around and we run a farm tour covering the key areas of the site with machinery on display throughout. The Draining Board brought a large 360 digger to one of our events and we were able to show visitors how we clean out dykes running across the farm. It’s important to remember, that for many people, it will be their first visit to a farm and they are just interested in learning about what you do.
A Team Effort
Our Open Farm Sunday event is a real team effort. We generally have about ten farm staff onsite allocated to a range of jobs – car parking, booking in visitors, registering people for the quiz, manning machinery and providing information to visitors. We also run three tractor and trailer rides with three staff in rotation on each trailer.
Health and Safety is always a key focus. Our in-house H&S department will do a thorough risk assessment and we have a designated H&S officer present on the day. Although we have toilets on site, we always hire in extra and set-up mobile sink units near the livestock areas.
Have A Go
I would urge other farms thinking about doing Open Farm Sunday to just give it a go. There is no harm in trying. Do what you are comfortable with. If that is just inviting 25 people onto the farm, then that is better than nothing. It doesn’t matter what you have on your farm – fruit, cattle, cereals or vegetables – every farm has something to offer. As farmers we sometimes forget the everyday things we do are fascinating to the general public. Just seeing how many people come onto the farm from across the generations — toddlers up to 90 year olds – and to see their genuine interest in what we do, is incredibly rewarding.
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