Open Farm Sunday – the new Rock & Roll

28 Feb 2019

Will Evans is a Welsh farmer. A couple of years ago he started a podcast called Rock & Roll Farming, he did it because no-one else was telling the farming industry’s story from a farmer’s perspective. He interviews a different person every week and it’s always really good.

Will’s latest podcast is with LEAF’s Chief Executive, Caroline Drummond; it makes for important listening as farming’s support mechanisms come into the spotlight, once again.

In the interview LEAF’s Chief said that public access onto farms is one of the measures that will be included in the new Agriculture Bill. In my mind this moves public engagement from not just a nice to do, but a vital part of what farming routinely has to do in the future.

The changing relationship farming will have with theEU means that funding will need to be strongly defined and demonstrated as value for money. Ms Drummond, a farmer herself, holds a firm belief is that farmers will have a massive part to play in society, including improving health and diets, mental wellbeing and delivering climate change mitigation; she added that the industry is at a pivotal point and that, “as farmers, we must better demonstrate what we do.”

Opening to the public isn’t for everyone, but an easy way to do it – on whatever scale you can – is to open your gates for LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday. More than 12,000 farming people are involved every year in delivering farming’s annual open day in June, some events welcome hundreds of people, whilst others keep their events completely self-contained, with numbers as low as 10 to 15 visitors.

For the last three years LEAF Open Farm Sunday has attracted over a quarter of a million visitors each year. Eighty-nine percent of the 2018 visitors said that they now had a more positive attitude towards farming.

Ms Drummond’s knowledge, built up over 30 years with the charity, shines through in the podcast. Staggeringly Ms Drummond said thatabout 88% of the UK population is urban, so society is becoming more and more distant from how we produce our food, the seasons and nature. Her description of visiting a farm is lovely: “it’s the ultimate 5-D cinema which touches every sense leaving embedded memories that last a lifetime and creates a better love for our industry.”

Alongside policy changes, farming also needs to respond to the growing rise of ‘food tribes’ like veganism, flexitarianism and pescatarianism; Satisfying Defra’s requirements isn’t the only reason that we should be talking more openly and honestly with society about what farming does and why.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday is on Sunday 9thJune 2019. Will Evans’ Rock & Roll Podcast can be found on iTunes and Libsyn

Jane is a Chartered Marketer with over 25 years’ experience in marketing within the agri-food sector. She is a member of the executive board of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists and the council of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists. Jane is a graduate of the IAgrM and Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programmes, is a Windsor Leadership Alumna and a Waitangi Scholar. Board member for Lantra and a Professional Agriculturalist (P.Agric).