On Sunday 27 June, the farming industry’s annual open day, LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LOFS) will return to celebrate its fifteenth event since the initiative was launched in 2006. At a time when food and farming has generated greater interest than ever before, LOFS organisers, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), is calling on farmers to take part and help promote the British food and farming story.
There is no doubt that LEAF Open Farm Sunday will look slightly different this year. The trend is for smaller events, with activities where visitors can manage their own learning, such as self-guided farm walks. Every farmer that takes part will still have full autonomy to decide on the type of event they would like to offer, for how long and for how many people.
There is also a greater emphasis on using a free ticketing system, such as TryBooking or Eventbrite, to record and manage visitor numbers with both systems offering an easy, automated solution. There is also flexibility on when events take place. Central promotion will focus on the 27, but farmers can choose any Sunday in June to open their gates and still benefit from LOFS branding and resources.
LEAF Open Farm Sunday Manager, Annabel Shackleton explained why it is more important than ever to take part,
“LEAF Open Farm Sunday plays a vital role promoting British farming, dispelling myths and helping people to value the food they eat. We are actively encouraging more smaller events this year. A simple farm walk for 30 people is both rewarding and manageable for all involved. We know there may be some nervousness around Covid and we want to ensure both host farmers, and visitors attending, feel safe and confident to go ahead. As theatres, cinemas and dining indoors reopens, remember transmission rates are significantly reduced outdoors. The farming stage – our wonderful countryside - is the perfect venue to safely welcome visitors.”
River Croft in Inverness-shire held their first LEAF Open Farm Sunday event in 2017 and in 2018 started using the ticketing service to effectively manage visitor numbers. Michelle Anderson-Carroll explained why it was so useful:
“In 2018, we decided to use the LOFS ticketing system that LEAF offers (using Trybooking) and it really is brilliant! We set up two bookable tours but with a very manageable number of 35 visitors on each and promoted the link on Facebook. Both events were booked up quickly, but we also maintained a waiting list on the system. It really helped with knowing when people were arriving too. The track to our croft is a mile long with very few places for cars to pass – so before the second tour started, we asked the visitors from the first tour not to leave until the second wave of visitors had arrived.”
Over recent months people have become more engaged than ever with farming, nature, where their food comes from and how their food purchasing decision impacts on climate change
With hundreds of farmers across Britain expected to take part in LOFS this year, the industry initiative continues to build community connections and help raise awareness of all that farmers do to maintain the countryside, enhance the environment and produce our food.
Mrs Shackleton said: “Our research shows that 87% of visitors on LEAF Open Farm Sunday found the day changed the way they think about farming from the technology required to run a farming business through to how more sustainable, regenerative farming is helping to address the climate crisis through better soil and water management, reducing waste, using renewable energy and enhancing biodiversity.
“It is also a chance to raise public awareness of the Countryside Code and public access. Recently there has been an increase in damage to grass and cereal fields that look bare to the un-informed and therefore deemed acceptable to walk on, but actually are home to our future food. LEAF Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity to explain why keeping to the designated footpath is so important, without causing conflict or negativity.”
All farmers who register their LOFS event at www.farmsunday.org receive a comprehensive handbook and free resources There is a network of regional LOFS ambassadors and the team at LEAF available to discuss plans and offer guidance. Farmers do not need to be members of LEAF to take part, but they do need to register their event.