OFS 2024: How to get the public on farm for the first time

Open Farm Sunday (OFS) this year celebrates 18 years of wecloming the public and putting a spotlight on sustainable British agriculture.

The nationwide event, managed by Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming), has seen some three million people visit farms over the near two decades since its inception.

For first-time hosts, or those still undecided about taking part, Leaf Open Farm Sunday manager Annabel Shackleton has compiled a compelling list of reasons why past OFS hosts have opened their farm gates to the public.

See also: How to run a successful Open Farm Sunday event

“Everyone will have their own reasons for taking part,” says Annabel, “but promoting a positive image of the industry was the top reason that farmers gave last year.”

Data collected by Leaf shows that in 2023, 88% of participating farmers said they were taking part in OFS to promote a positive image of the industry, while 82% said it was to improve relationships with the immediate and wider community.

A further 76% said that informing the public about sustainable agriculture was the most important element, while 52% wanted to promote their business or diversification.

Every farmer manages their event differently. For those who wish to limit or manage numbers, ticketing the event via websites such as Eventbrite can be useful and give you full control over the number of visitors.

For those planning larger events, but who would still like to have a record of attendance, Annabel recommends using a clicker as visitors pass through the farm’s entry point.

Marketing your OFS

Social media is a powerful tool for advertising your OFS event and generating visitors – whether you are planning for 30 or 300.

Ben and Katie Pike, owners of agricultural PR and marketing agency Eve Communications, recommend using social media to get the message out to local communities.

“Facebook and Instagram are the most appropriate channels for attracting an OFS audience,” says Katie.

“On Facebook, there are community and village groups – those are the groups that I would highly recommend joining, because that is where you can share your business page and reach your immediate local audience – those local families and neighbours.”

Ben and Katie recommend making a three-month content plan of posts to schedule on social media each day, giving a regular feed of content between now and OFS.

This should include promotional content, explaining what will be on offer, along with informative and educational posts to show people what you do on your farm.

Katie says that it is also important to include “behind the scenes” material and light-hearted, entertaining posts.

Planning activities

In previous years, farmers across the country have planned a range of different activities, tailored to suit their individual farm and business.

Common OFS attractions include:

  • Farm “safari” tour of livestock
  • Tractor and trailer farm rides
  • Nature trails
  • Readings for children
  • Farm shop talks
  • Wildlife and nature spotting checklist
  • Guided farm walk
  • Soil biology and soil health test
  • Livestock displays
  • Farmer stories
  • Farmer Q&A.

“We have asked people what they want to learn about at this year’s OFS,” says Annabel.

“The answer that comes out at the top year after year is that people want to hear more stories about the farm. They want to talk to farmers about their stories and experiences.”

Other topics that rank highly include animal welfare, wildlife and biodiversity, and agricultural machinery.

visitors to farm on open farm sunday

© Leaf

Promoting your business

Northamptonshire farmer Radka Gromnicova hosted an Open Farm Sunday event for the first time last year.

Based at Old Park Farm, she has a mixed livestock enterprise, with woodland pigs, ducks, and pasture broilers and laying hens, which she uses to provide meat boxes and to sell in the on-site farm shop.

Radka wanted to plan the event around the livestock and farm shop, showing the public the relationship from farm to plate, and promoting the business. 

“We had no clue if we would have 50 visitors or 500,” she said. “We had advertised the event on the radio that morning, and we did social media posts and spread the word through our customers.”

With the help of 12 friends and family, Radka and the team welcomed 200 visitors to the farm – most of whom had travelled from within a 15-mile radius.


“Because we are mostly a livestock farm, and we have four different livestock enterprises, we did talks and demonstrations by each of them,” says Radka.

This started with a talk about the pastured broilers and laying hens.

“This was for them to see the difference between the meat chickens and the hens that lay eggs,” she said.

“The wow factor was the pigs in the woods, because it’s something that people don’t usually see, and they look so natural in there.”

Other activities on the day included a machinery display of tractors and a local contractor’s combine harvester, which were parked in one of the paddocks for visitors to look around and explore, and a hay bale reading area for children.

How to get involved

For more information, or to sign up to host your own OFS event, head to farmsunday.org/open-my-farm

For ideas and resources to help with your activity planning, visit countrysideclassroom.org.uk

Reasons to host an OFS event

Results from Leaf’s follow-up survey of visitors three months after Open Farm Sunday show:

  • 72% of visitors felt the industry is adapting to combat climate change
  • 49% of visitors said the event had inspired someone in their group to consider a career in farming
  • 93% of visitors had a better understanding of sustainably produced food
  • 96% said they now appreciate more the work done by farmers
  • 64% said they are doing things differently: buying more local produce and supporting farm shops.
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