Farmers gear up for virtual Open Farm Sunday event

Hundreds of farms across the country are set to “virtually” throw their gates open this weekend as part of Leaf Online Farm Sunday (LOFS).

The coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of the annual event to 20 September, but organiser Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf) said it could not let the original June date pass by without any recognition.

The team is inviting farmers this Sunday (7 June) to share what’s happening on their farm on social media using #LOFS20, giving the public the chance to virtually visit hundreds of farms across the UK – rather than just their local farms.

See also: Farm events rescheduled due to coronavirus

In addition, 13 host farmers are lined up to present virtual farm tours live on Facebook, every hour on the hour, between 8am and 8pm. This format will allow live interaction and questions from the public.

Farmers will connect the public with food production and the countryside to demonstrate what is involved in producing food, enhancing the environment, and explaining the amazing science and technology involved. 

People are also invited to join in the conversation on Facebook (@Leafopenfarmsunday) and Twitter (@OpenFarmSunday), using the hashtag #LOFS20. 

“For people missing being able to get out onto a farm to get up close to livestock, crops and machinery, and engaging all the senses which make Leaf Open Farm Sunday events so special, Online Farm Sunday on 7 June is the next best thing,” said LOFS manager Annabel Shackleton.

“It’s a fabulous chance to see what’s happening on farms from Jersey to the Isle of Arran in Scotland – farms which most people wouldn’t normally be able to visit. Visitors love hearing farming stories and they’ll get a sneak peek into what may be on offer on Sunday 20 September.”

Farm tours

The day kicks off at 8am with Leaf chief executive Caroline Drummond hosting a live tour of her dairy farm in Cornwall on the LOFS Facebook page. 

Cotswolds farmer Jake Freestone is hosting a live tour at 9am. Mr Freestone, farm manager at Overbury Farms, which covers 1,560ha on Bredon Hill, Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border, said he was “very excited” to be taking part.

“It’s a really great opportunity to ask us, as farmers, questions about where your food comes from, how we grow it, how we look after the environment, which surrounds us in our everyday world,” he added.

“I want to talk to everyone about our crops – our wheat, which we sell to Kelloggs, our barley, which goes into Molson Coors, our oilseed rape, which is pressed and turned into vegetable oils, so you can cook/fry with it. It also powers your cars.”  

Other farmers who will be hosting Facebook live virtual tours include William Church, Jersey Royal Company (10am); Yorkshire dairy farmer Eddie Andrew from Our Cow Molly (12pm); Ailsa Currie, a beef and sheep farmer on the Isle of Arran (2pm); Northamptonshire farmer Duncan Farrington (3pm) and Anthony Snell, Herefordshire soft fruit farmer (7pm).

The day will culminate with Cambridgeshire arable farmer Tom Mead at 8pm. For more information and to view the schedule of Facebook Live farm tours, see farmsunday.org.

The event coincides with Farming Fortnight, Leaf Education’s two-week long celebration of farming from 1-12 June, which aims to inspire young people about farming and the natural world.

Farming events to go virtual amid coronavirus lockdown

Organisers of a number of farming events are set to host digital events in the face of the coronavirus lockdown.

For the first time ever, the Cereals event will be held online from 10-11 June. There will be plenty of content for farmers and growers to explore, including  the latest crop varieties, the newest innovations in crop protection and nutrition, and the latest technological revolutions.

Visitors will be able to chat with all their favourite exhibitors through an interactive map, and there will be video content to bring machinery demonstrations to life.

The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs will launch a survey to understand the key issues affecting rural young people today and their views on what needs to change post-Brexit. Young farmers will also be discussing succession planning or routes into farming.

The two-day programme will feature a live Q&A about the impact of coronavirus and Brexit from Defra secretary Victoria Prentis and NFU president Minette Batters. Visit the Cereals website for more information and to register

A Royal Three Counties Show will take place online from 12-14 June. Special features include a virtual young handlers’ competitions, a virtual sheep shearing contest, a live chat with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, live Zoom chats with the NFU during a virtual tour of a Gloucestershire farm, and an “Ask the farmer” session. For information, visit the Royal Three Counties website.

The UK’s biggest organic on-farm conference, OF&G National Organic Combinable Crops, will be streaming a series of webinars live on 9 June, 7 July and 14 July. For details, visit the OF&G website.

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