6 September 2002

2002 Farm Attraction of the Year

winner shows how its done

Dairyland Farm World was the winner of the over-50,000

visitors a year category of the Farm Attraction of the Year

award. John Burns sees why it won

ITS easy to see why Dairyland Farm World near Newquay in Cornwall won its category. The site is so big and there are so many attractions on it that a half-day tour in the company of managing director Rex Davey allowed only time for brief glimpses of its many and varied parts.

But it was time enough to see that visitors were enjoying themselves and were well looked after by the friendly staff. Children were playing with toy JCBs in sand pits or riding ponies. Calves, goat kids and lambs were being bottle-fed, and rudd, trout and ducks being thrown bread and pellets at the three ponds which form part of the attractive and informative nature trail.

There was ferret racing to watch, followed by a visit to see the cows being milked in the 27-year-old rotary parlour which this spring was given a thorough make-over to create a nightclub atmosphere complete with revolving mirror-ball in the ceiling.

Its now called Clarabelles Orbiter but is still the same parlour at heart. There are those in the outside world who truly believe the Daveys have installed a new type of rotary parlour.

Imaginative recycling of scrap materials by in-house welders has provided climbing towers and a very popular cable ride as well as the usual playground items. There are plenty of small animals to be petted and plenty of wash basins in which to wash hands afterwards.

They take a positive view of life here, carry generous indemnity insurance cover and make it possible for children to do what they like doing – touching the animals – while understanding the need to wash hands afterwards.

There are representatives of many breeds of livestock and poultry on show, along with a growing collection of oldish farm machinery and a superbly presented museum of Cornish rural life and a demonstration of alternative energy sources. The turf labyrinth is reputed to have therapeutic properties and a recent unsolicited report from a visitor supports that claim.

Other businesses

Dairyland Farm World began life in 1975. The Davey family, which owns the attraction, was already involved in other businesses. As well as farming some 220ha (550 acres) with a 100-cow dairy herd, they were agricultural contractors, engineers and JCB agents for Cornwall.

"But we saw wine lakes and beef mountains developing across Europe and felt sure it could not go on," says Mr Davey. "In 1975, on a farm study tour to the US, we visited a dairy farm which had opened its milking parlour to the public and had soon developed it into a significant source of income for the farm.

"I came home, thought about it and in August that year we opened Dairyland Farm World with due pomp and ceremony."

The proposed entry fee was 10p/head plus 10p to watch the milking. But on the advice of a leading hotelier that was increased to 50p for the two. Today it is £5.50, (though that is for a much bigger and more varied product and entitles the visitor to unlimited free repeat visits in the following seven days). That idea, too, came from the US and Mr Davey feels that adopting it has been one of the best moves they ever made.

The grand opening coincided with the switch from the abreast milking parlour to one of the first rotary parlours in Europe. "The early ones needed a lot of maintenance and so they quickly went out of fashion but because we had our own engineering staff (and still have) we were able to keep our rotary going."

Today, the Davey farm has been reduced to 89ha (220 acres) with 140 dairy cows plus followers. The contracting, engineering and JCB franchise have gone, but Dairyland Farm World continues to expand and improve every year under the shrewd leadership of Mr Davey, now 85 years old but still with sharp eye for a business opportunity.

There are many examples at Dairyland Farm World of opportunities already seized. The toy JCBs sold all over Britain are made there in slack times in winter. Milk is skimmed for making Cornish clotted cream and icecream. Both items are sold in the restaurant and the shop, by mail order and to local hotels which also buy the skimmed milk. Most of the food sold in the restaurant is produced locally.

Major business

Dairyland Farm World is now a major business which dwarfs the farming side. Mr Daveys estimate that the foot-and-mouth related restrictions cost it about £50,000 gives a clue to its turnover.

On a typical day in the season, there will be 1000 visitors and the annual total approaches 80,000. It is a popular venue for childrens birthday parties and school visits, as well as other events such as vintage farm machinery rallies.

"We spend a lot on promotion. We are members of all the tourism organisations and we do a lot of advertising in local papers. In the holiday season Daisy the cow visits the caravan parks and other areas every day to promote Dairyland Farm World. It works."

Up to 40 staff are employed during the season and a core group is retained during the winter to care for the many animals and do maintenance and development work. Although many of the attractions are already under cover, plans are in hand to provide a large building which would allow them to open during the winter instead of from Easter to Halloween as at present.

Final say

Dairyland is clearly run very professionally. Staff training has a high priority and customers have the final say. They all have the opportunity to complete a questionnaire as they leave and their comments are taken seriously and acted upon if necessary or feasible.

The competition judges were impressed. "Dairyland Farm World is a clear leader within this group by providing a very well managed farm attraction with a wide and diverse range of content and activities, all of which were very well presented," they said.

"The quality of visitor care extended by all staff was of the highest standard. Dairyland has accrued many years of experience as a farm attraction but hasnt merely sat on its laurels."

The other two category winners will be featured over the coming weeks.

Rex Davey (back row sitting), with FWs John Burns, Lloyds TSBs David Platt and Bernie Landshoff, NFAN chairman, plus Dairyland staff.

Calves, goats, lambs and kids are on hand to be bottle-fed.

On a typical day in the season, there will be more than 1000 visitors to Dairyland Farm World.

NFAN

The National Farm Attractions Network represents UK farm attractions of all sizes and types. It provides a voice for this increasingly important part of the rural sector and represents farm attraction operators in negotiations with DEFRA, the tourism industry and statutory bodies. It also operates an advice line that provides guidance on accountancy, business rates, marketing, health and safety and planning. It can be contacted on 01536-513397.

Above: More than 80,000 people visit each year.

Right: Rex Davey. Below: Fun in the sand.

Left: The rotary parlour was installed 27 years ago. Its called Clarabelles Orbiter and is designed to create a nightclub atmosphere. Hence the revolving mirror ball!

HOW THE COMPETITION WORKS

Farm Attraction of the Year 2002 is organised by the National Farm Attractions Network and supported by Lloyds TSB, farmers weekly and the English Tourism Council.

The judges were Jackie Vinden, who runs Odds Farm Park, Beaconsfield with her husband Steve; Tracey Fountain, past manager of a large farm attraction; Phil Barker, Lloyds TSB; David Cousins, farmers weekly and

David Stanbridge from the English Tourism Council.

The competition was open to all UK farm-based attractions and judging was based on the quality of layout, safety, catering and toilet facilities, welfare of livestock, helpfulness of staff, professionalism and the extent to which the attraction provided an enjoyable and informative experience for visitors.