Farmers connecting with the public in numbers

A previous Open Farm Sunday event at Ramsden Farm, Walsden.

A previous Open Farm Sunday event at Ramsden Farm, Walsden.

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A record number of farms have registered to open their gates to the public on Open Farm Sunday this summer.

More than 200 farms have committed to the event which will see members of the public go behind the scenes to see what real farming looks like.

Annabel Shackleton, of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), who manages the annual occasion, believes the mutual interest of farmers wanting to connect with the public, and the public taking an interest in the provenance of food, has never been greater and that, she said, can only be healthy as farmers fight for a fair price for their produce from retailers.

“This is the highest number of registrations we have had at this time of the year out of any of the previous years and fingers crossed we are going to get more farmers participating than ever before.

“Over the last three years, about 30 per cent of farms that have opened for the event have been doing so for the first time and this year that statistic is up to 35 per cent.

“I think certainly one of the reasons for that is that more farmers are hearing about it and for some it takes a while for them to make a decision to join in, but with the horsemeat scandal last year, farmers are very much aware of their responsibilities and their need to communicate with the public if they want consumers to value their food when they come to buying from the supermarket and to pay a fair price. To do that there is a growing appreciation that they have to showcase their skills and work that goes into producing food on their farms.”

Farmers, she said, are generally more communicative with the public than they have been before and are waking up to the benefits, as demonstrated by the use of social media networks such as Twitter.

“There is so much more positive media coverage in the papers about the work that farmers do and following the dreadful flooding we had early in the year and the social media coverage from that; how farmers used it themselves to get the message out that they needed support and achieved it by getting supplies transported to them from all over the country, farmers are increasingly aware of the power of the communications tools at their disposal.”

With Open Farm Sunday just ten weeks away, she hopes more farmers will sign up.

“We’d like as many farmers in Yorkshire as possible to open their farm gates on June 8 to help the public to celebrate Yorkshire farming and food.”

Wildon Grange Farm in Coxwold near Kilburn, North Yorkshire, was opened to the public for the event last summer, attracting around 220 visitors.

Dairy farmer’s wife Angela Banks said it was a huge success and intends to take part again in the future.

“There are loads of new people in the village nowadays and people didn’t know what went on here. They were just so surprised by what they saw, and that’s just locals from the village. Some people don’t know where their milk comes from.

“I would definitely recommend it to others. We are thinking of doing it every other year.”

How to get involved

Farmers who register their Open Farm Sunday event with organisers LEAF will be sent posters and flyers that they can personalise to promote their individual event - whether it is hosting a farm walk or introducing the public to livestock.

To register an event or to find one to visit on June 8, see www.farmsunday.org. 
An information day for farmers thinking of hosting an open day will be held at Hole House Farm, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate on Wednesday, 5-8pm. Booking via the website above is essential.

Since Open Farm Sunday began in 2006, more than one million people have visited participating farms across the UK.

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