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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...

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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.

Com­mu­ni­ty Connections

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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