Teresa Pickworth, Whitacre Hall, Coleshill, West Midlands
Teresa Pickworth and her husband Carl farm Whitacre Hall, near Coleshill in the West Midlands. The 380 acre arable farm is working towards gaining mid-tier stewardship, with ancient woodland, ponds and traditional English bluebells just some of the features on the farm which they want to share with visitors. They took part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the first time in 2017.
380 acre arable farm | West Midlands | 1000 visitors
Putting us on the map
We have been exploring diversification opportunities for some time – particularly a tea room and nature walk. A visit to the Farm Business Innovation Show in November and a chance encounter with Annabel Shackleton, LEAF Open Farm Sunday Manager, persuaded us to give it a go! Initially we thought it would be a great way to trial our tea room and nature walk – basically to carry out some market research. But also, we’re really proud to be arable farmers and saw LEAF Open Farm Sunday as a good opportunity to make people more aware of what we do and that not all farmers have livestock!
Early registration to focus planning
We signed up to do LEAF Open Farm Sunday in November to get information from LEAF and it gave us a real focus. The actual planning started in March; we started off creating a map of the farm and deciding where we would locate all the activities. The posters, flyers and banners we ordered free of charge from LEAF were invaluable. Three weeks before the event, we put the large banners up in prominent positions to catch the Bank Holiday traffic and gave the flyers to local primary schools and the wider neighbourhood. Facebook was great for promoting the event and we also placed an advert in the local newspaper. This was picked up by the local radio station who came out to do an interview!
Health and Safety was initially a bit daunting, but in the end, it was really straightforward. We read the LEAF Host Farmer Handbook, completed the risk assessment, spoke to all our insurers to check public liability, hired toilets and hand washing facilities and that was it.
Getting our messages across
We ran two farm tours at set times. Our biggest achievement was that on one tour a visitor was very anti-chemical spraying, but when our agronomist Ross Barton spoke about how we spray and manage crops, the visitor went from being negative to being quite positive. The discussion brought the whole group into the conversation, but they got the message that we only spray if we absolutely have to do it. We anticipated the tours would last 45 mins, but visitors were so interested and asked lots of in depth questions that the first one was 1.5 hours long!
Increasing local profile
There’s no doubting that doing LEAF Open Farm Sunday does require time and effort. But it is so worthwhile — we had a fantastic day. The comments we received on the day and afterwards have been amazing; one child started the day thinking their food came from Asda, he went home, with a much clearer understanding that it starts with crops growing in fields. We had planned on having 200 visitors, but because of our extensive promotional work we had just over 1000 visitors – but amazingly we coped extremely well. Thankfully we had over-catered just in case and at 4pm on the day supplies ran out!
It really put us on the map as many local people didn’t realise we were here. We’d been in touch with our local MP and Mayor for some time regarding our diversifications projects – they both attended on the day and I think that really helped us gain support for our developments.
Since doing LEAF Open Farm Sunday, our profile in the community has definitely increased and we’ve had a school come back to us to book a visit. We’ll definitely be doing it again next year and having done it once, we know what to expect and we’re already chatting about new ideas to inspire our visitors about arable farming.
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