Open farm Sunday, the
“Taking people on walks round the farm is a great pleasure. To make it fun for them and me I’m always thinking up ways to make it as interesting and as ‘busy’ as possible. By busy I mean that there have to be lots of interesting things to see and do along the way, in every season.
I tell stories about the hedges, the oldest trees and the adventures farmers have. I keep my language simple, never technical. You have to be able to relate to your visitors’ lives.
It’s important that people understand farmers have lots of decisions to make. I ask the children to tell me how I know when a crop is ready for harvest. Then I ask them to go and choose which cabbage, for example, is ready. I check the ones chosen and then if ready I cut it for them and talk about what delicious food that cabbage will make.
Visitors – old and young alike – enjoy feeding the animals. We have designed the livestock building so people can be near, and feed, the animals safely. We are not afraid to make the link between the livestock and the meat in the farm shop. We are honest. If there is an animal that is sick we put a sign saying so and explain what treatment it’s getting.
I want people to be surprised. The goats do that. Visitors put feed in a tray on a belt and then turn the wheel to lift it to the top of a platform four metres up and the goats climb the ramp and walk along the high, narrow beam to get it. People are amazed. But I use their interest to get them to think about why goats have a head for heights and how their feet are designed for it.
There’s no point in saying interesting things that can’t be heard. We decided to invest in a headpiece and speaker system and that really helps. It means that on the tractor and trailer ride I can carry on talking – and I mean talking, not shouting. I’ve developed a great whistle to help with crowd control!”
| Top tips |
* Make it fun and entertaining and make it safe
* Prove that you have the best job in the world
* Offer activities from feeding animals to welly-chucking
You’re not alone
Never had a farm walk before? Worried about the public coming on to your farm? Not sure what you’ll talk to them about? Concerned about fielding awkward questions? Worried about health and safety issues? Concerned that they won’t find it interesting?
LEAF can answer these and any other questions you have about opening your farm as part of Open farm Sunday on June 10. They can tell you how to generate interest and publicity, avoid jargon and handle tricky questions. They can also explain how you organise displays, deal with safety and insurance, manage car parking and help disabled visitors. Crucially, too, they can tell you what to do if it rains.
As well as that, LEAF supplies a free resource pack to all host farmers. This consists of polo shirts, road signs, stickers, postcards and draft press releases.
So what are you waiting for? Join the hundreds of other farmers opening their farms on June 10 and do your bit for fostering public understanding of farming.