LEAF Open Farm Sunday continues to drive public engagement with farming

28 Jun 2021

Following a year in which LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) has encouraged thousands of people to join virtual farm tours across the country, the sustainable farming organisation has reported that over 100 farms opened their gates on 27th June for LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2021 – farming’s annual open day.

For the first LEAF Open Farm Sunday since June 2019, thousands of people took the opportunity to visit a working farm and see first-hand all that is involved in the sustainable production of the food they eat and what farmers do to look after the wider environment. Given the current Covid regulations, less farms than usual chose to open, with pre-booking a key requirement to limit visitor numbers, but this did not diminish the enthusiasm farmers put in to sharing their farming stories and showcasing British farming. Most farms offered socially-distanced farm walks or guided tours, giving visitors a great opportunity to talk directly with farmers and enjoy a really personal experience of farming.

Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive, said: “A huge thank you to all the farmers who opened their gates on Sunday.  LEAF’s ‘Take 30’ campaign to encourage farmers to take small groups of 30 on a farm walk clearly resonated really well.  Of the farms that opened, 1 in 3 did so for the first time, so it was wonderful to welcome some new farmers into the LEAF Open Farm Sunday family.  We also really appreciated the feedback we’ve had from farmers who, for a variety of reasons, chose not to open this June, but sent messages of support.  Many of them have indicated that they plan to open again in 2022 and we’re already looking forward to next year.”

“It has never been more important that we continue to raise awareness of all that British farmers deliver in supporting our health and wellbeing, producing nutritious food, managing our beautiful countryside and protecting and enhancing our environment through climate positive, regenerative farming. As an industry, we need to build deeper and stronger connections with consumers, to have conversations, answer questions and seize every opportunity to share what we are doing to address the climate and nature emergency.  In doing so, this will help drive appreciation, trust and ultimately more informed food choices.”

Ms Drummond also acknowledged the long-term support from LEAF Open Farm Sunday Principal Sponsors: AHDB, Arla Foods, Asda, BASF, Co-op, Farm­ers Week­ly, Fron­tier Agri­cul­ture, John Deere, Kellogg’s, LEAF Mar­que, NFU, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.  “There is no better way to achieve support from the public than by direct on-farm experiences like LEAF Open Farm Sunday – which is why I would also like to thank all our sponsors for their ongoing and vital support, as without them, none of this would be possible.”

Defra Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis MP joined Caroline Drummond for a tour of Rectory Farm near Oxford, and said:  “I am delighted to support LEAF Open Farm Sunday and congratulate all the farmers and their helpers who welcomed the public onto farms on Sunday.”

“British farmers do so much to not only produce the nutritious food we eat, but also to care for the environment.  It is vital that people understand more about all that farmers do and the high standards of food production and animal welfare in Britain.”

Rectory Farm, which has a thriving soft fruit and vegetable Pick Your Own, also produces LEAF Marque certified wheat, potatoes and asparagus for processing, supplying supermarkets and also direct sales to local delis and restaurants.  The fully booked LOFS event welcomed 50 visitors each hour during the day to learn about sustainable farming, see the machinery used on the farm and meet the Stanley family, their farming team and friends – all there to showcase British farming.

Imogen Stanley who led the tour with Minister Prentis, spoke of the importance of communicating with the public: “I’m so keen to help educate children and families about farming and how food is produced.  Everyone needs to be eating more freshly cooked produce, and what better way to do that than by giving visitors the experience of picking their own fruit and vegetables, and meeting the farmers who grow crops on a commercial scale.  It was a pleasure to meet Minister Prentis, show her round our event and introduce her to the wonderful team of farming friends who have all volunteered to help tell the story of farming to visitors at our Open Farm Sunday event.”

LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2022 will take place on Sunday 12th June.

Faces of LOFS 2021 (please find quotes below, images can be found at the bottom of the release):

Faye Colquhoun, Dendoldrum Farm, Angus – 34 visitors, 1st LOFS event

“We were incredibly hesitant around organising our first Open Farm Sunday event, especially during a worldwide pandemic.  We soon realised that we had nothing to worry about. LEAF supported us, advised us and help us set up an amazing experience for our visitors.  Wow!  What a fantastic experience for us too!  We wish that we’d known how valuable an experience that Open Farm Sunday would be for both our visitors and ourselves.  If we had, we would have done this many years ago!  It was an incredible opportunity to showcase what we do on a daily basis. It truly was the best explanation ever of farm to fork!”

Tanya Robbins, Didcott Farm, Worcestershire –  250 visitors; 3rd LOFS event

“250 booked to attend coming from as far afield as Birmingham, but what’s been lovely is that we’ve also had people from the surrounding villages who have walked along the footpaths to our event.  We’ve had some lovely feedback – they’ve really enjoyed the day.  I’m so glad that we’ve gone ahead and done this.  If you get the chance – make the chance to do Open Farm Sunday it really is worth it!”

Tom Mead, Meads Farm, Cambridgeshire – 73 visitors; 1st LOFS – 3 evening events!

“We were keen to host an Open Farm Sunday event this year and the idea of doing a small bookable tour suited us really well.  The farm here is right in amongst the village, bordering the primary school and people walk through on footpaths all the time, we therefore thought people might be interested to hear more….and they were!  We hosted three evening farm walks last week, 6-8pm, limited to 25 per tour. We really enjoyed hosting the tours for our first OFS events. We had really interested audiences, with good questions and discussion. Lots of chat about where our cereal crops go, how to grow them, why to buy Silver Spoon sugar, pesticides, soil, carbon and some of the challenges and opportunities in the farming sector. Everyone stayed around afterwards for a drink and a chat and were really positive. We have had lots of thank yous since which gives us a great buzz as we head into a busy harvest. We will definitely be taking part next year. The bookable farm tours were a great starter OFS for us so we would really recommend to others wanting to talk about farming but not necessarily host a big event (…yet!).”

Anne Mair Chapman, Kypie Farm, Northumberland- 60 visitors; 1st LOFS event

“We are over the moon with how our first Open Farm Sunday all went. Our self-guided farm walk was easy to organise, especially with the information boards and posters from LEAF, AHBD and NFU.  Making the time in the days leading up to LOFS to position signs, clear walking routes and plan for the day itself really did pay off. We were able to relax, enjoy the day and talk to our visitors knowing that we had worked through our “to do” list to ensure that we were providing a family friendly, Covid safe, outdoor event which we hope will be the first of many for us and encourage other family farms to run LOFS events of a similar low key nature in the future.”

Tim Barton, Brewood Park Farm, Staffordshire – 30 visitors; 1st LOFS event

Our LOFS was a great success and we enjoyed it too.  We had considered hosting a LOFS before, but weren’t sure how popular it would be as we don’t have livestock.   We opted for a small ticket only event, limited to 30 visitors.  We only promoted on local village Facebook Groups and soon filled our 30 places, and had a waiting list! We opted to have 3 themes and divided visitors into 3 groups which rotated around each group:

  • Farm machinery (tractors, baler, drill & combine) and re-generative agriculture
  • Bird handling with our local bird ringing group
  • Refreshments and discussion about crops and food production – with activities such as matching grains to food products.

I would definitely encourage people to take part next year.  About half the group hadn’t been to a farm before, and they left with a greater understanding about how we produce food in an environmentally responsible way.   Ticketing means it is easier to manage on the day – but needs a bit more prep before hand.

Hazel Andrew, Awnells Farm, Herefordshire – 350 visitors; 8th LOFS event

“We love showing the public our prizewinning Herefordshire cattle. The public are too far removed from where our food comes from. Everybody has lost the reason for farming. They think the countryside is a playground.  We love having school children come to visit and learning, but we’ve realised over the years that adults need to learn as well.  That’s why we’ve taken part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday for the past eight years.”

Hamish Benborough, Dennings Down Farm, Devon – 100 visitors; 4th LOFS event

“We were so lucky with the weather. We had a great day, with a steady trickle  – about a hundred in total.  Many thanks for all your help and encouragement from LEAF.

/ENDS

For further information, please contact Jane Craigie Marketing:

Susannah Pate susannah@janecraigie.com or 07841 194 897 OR Rebecca Dawes rebecca@janecraigie.com or 07792 467730

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