The 10th anniversary of Open Farm Sunday happens on the 7 June 2015. Caroline Bankes looks at what the last decade has achieved.
Open Farm Sunday happens on 7 June 2015. Hundreds of farms across the country will open their gates to the public for the 10th Open Farm Sunday, an annual event organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) to help consumers discover where their food comes from and talk to those who produce it.
OPEN FARM SUNDAY
“We want to create an opportunity whereby everyone has the chance to visit a farm, so that they fully value farming and the food they eat,” says LEAF’s chief executive, Caroline Drummond.
NFU figures show our farmers are responsible for producing 60% of the food consumed in the UK. There are 101,000 farms in England, 42,000 in Wales and 53,000 in Scotland, covering 71% of the UK land area and employing 464,000 people.
In the project’s first year 250 farms, from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire, took part in Open Farm Sunday. The number involved has grown to more than 400 farms. Pig farmers Robert and Alec Mercer took part in Open Farm Sunday last year at their Staffordshire-based farm for the first time and had nearly 1,500 visitors. This year these fourth-generation farmers will provide tractor/trailer rides to the farrowing fields to see the free-range sows and their piglets. Some visitors may handle weaned piglets before sampling the end product in a hog roast. They can also visit the potato fields where the raw material for Walkers crisps is grown. The funds raised are donated to Rainbows, a local children’s hospice, and the Midland Air Ambulance. The local WI is doing the teas as part of its 100th anniversary fund-raising plans.
Over the past decade a thousand farms have hosted Open Farm Sundays, welcoming more than 1.25 million visitors. Visitor numbers vary depending on location and weather, with some farms attracting up to 5,000 people in a day. Sometimes the whole village turns out to help the farmer run the day and serve lunches and teas. It is worth it. Last year one out of five visitors to an Open Farm Sunday event had never been on a farm before and 85% said they had learnt something new.
But research carried out by One Poll for LEAF last May showed there is still a lot to learn. One in three children had never heard a cow moo, even though there are 9.8 million of them on UK farms. The survey also showed that fewer than six in 10 consumers knew you could buy British strawberries in the summer, despite 5,000 hectares of the fruit being grown commercially each year.
“Our vision is to continue to grow the reach and impact of Open Farm Sunday and develop Open Farm school days over the next 10 years so that more families and school children can visit a farm and discover what sustainable farming is all about,” says Drummond. To find a farm to visit the Open Farm Sunday website.