Open Farm Sunday organisers announce monthly virtual farm visits along with on-site events after "surge in interest" in the countryside

Following on from the success of last year’s virtual events, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) has announced a year-round programme to support its flagship Open Farm Sunday (LOFS).

Our Cow Molly on the outskirts of Sheffield took part in the Open Farm Sunday event when it went online due to the Covid pandemic.

In addition to the on-farm events which are due to take place on June 13 and will mark LOFS’ 15th anniversary, the charity will continue to host a series of virtual farm visits on its digital platforms.

“One of the unexpected positives to emerge from the challenges of lockdown has been the surge in interest in the countryside, nature and buying fresh produce,” said LOFS manager, Annabel Shackleton.

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“We have seen a higher following than ever on our LOFS digital channels and this is the perfect moment to capture the public’s curiosity and build our outreach to benefit the whole industry.”

Open Farm Sunday will hold a year round programme of events during 2021

In previous years, LOFS has seen more than 250,000 people visit farms across the UK. Following the lockdown last March it was decided to take the event online which proved a huge success.

This year the online visits, which allow people to see behind the scenes at farms all around the country, will run in the spring and autumn alongside a programme of monthly live broadcasts featuring a different farm, running throughout the year. The broadcasts, will take place on the first Sunday of each month starting from February 7.

Mrs Shackleton, inset, is urging farmers to start thinking about how they can host guests on farm in June with Covid precautions in place.

“As visitor numbers for events may be limited, we would love to see a greater number of farms opening their gates but for smaller groups, so that social distancing can be followed.

“We’re encouraging host farmers to think about how to maximise outdoor spaces: it could be a farm walk, a scavenger hunt or a short show-and-tell in the yard.

“Farmers have some important topical messages to share about quality food production, caring for the countryside, plus the economic and environmental benefits of buying British – and we want to help facilitate these conversations.”

A library of free LOFS’ resources and online workshops are planned for March as well as an “easy-to-use” ticketing service so host farmers can manage visitor numbers and contact visitors if there are any changes in plans.

“While not essential, this is a good year for host farmers to use the ticketing service so they can keep in contact with visitors if plans need to change, but equally to set expectations and encourage them to adhere to farm and Covid-safe regulations.

“It also allows hosts to limit visitors per hour or per day to help them to manage their event more easily.”