Fans of a growing number of television shows about food, farming and the countryside are being urged to seize the chance this weekend to visit a farm for themselves.
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No amount of on-screen coverage can compare to what visitors can learn from attending an open day on a farm, according to Annabel Shackleton, organiser of LEAF (Linking Education And Farming) Open Farm Sunday.
The annual open event on participating farms across the country returns tomorrow, when around 30 hosts will welcome curious visitors through the farm gates in Yorkshire.
Ms Shackleton is urging people to lap up the chance to see for themselves how farmers produce food for the nation and how they manage the land.
“Seeing farming on the TV is not the same as visiting a farm in real life,” she said.
“For example, you can see a cow on TV day in, day out but it’s not until you get out onto a farm that you realise just how massive they are.”
Screen exposure can help boost engagement
TV schedules have seen a surge in rural programming. Aside from long-running rural affairs show Countryfile, the BBC has also broadcast The Farmer’s Country Showdown which tells the story of farmers competing at agricultural shows.
The wider food supply chain has been given exposure through the likes of BBC series Inside the Factory which has featured Bedale-based sausage makers Heck Food, among others, while the likes of Springwatch delves into the natural world.
Channel 5’s Springtime on the Farm, shot largely from Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley, recently enjoyed a second series and The Yorkshire Vet, which documents the working lives of rural North Yorkshire vets Julian Norton and Peter Wright, has been running since 2015.
Ms Shackleton said she hoped the recent flurry of TV shows spurs engagement with Sunday’s nationwide open day because there is so much that farm visitors will take from the experience.
“Watching TV is one thing but Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity for family and friends to have an experience on a farm, one that is hugely memorable and is a huge boost to that farm’s profile in the area as well as the profile of British farming.
“It is also a chance to get your questions answered and have that interaction,” she said.
Moorland farm insights
Among the farms taking part in Yorkshire is Stonebeck Gate Farm in Little Fryup, near Danby, in the North York Moors National Park.
Visitors will be treated to sheepdog and gundog exhibitions, and displays of sheep shearing, drystone walling and farm machinery between 12pm and 4pm.
Sally Ann Smith, events co-ordinator at the North York Moors National Park Authority which will have a presence at the event, said: “Taking part in Open Farm Sunday is always a highlight of our summer. It’s entertaining for kids and grown-ups alike but also increases awareness of where our food comes from and the hard work that goes into producing it.
“Farmers play an instrumental role in the upkeep of the North York Moors, helping to maintain its landscape and support and encourage a diverse range of wildlife.”
Farming about more than growing food
The Co-op, one of LEAF Open Farm Sunday’s sponsors, will welcome visitors to seven of its farm suppliers including Cappleside Farm in Rathmell near Settle.
Sioned Davies, the retailer’s undergraduate agri-marketing co-ordinator, said: “This free event will give the local community a unique ‘behind the scenes’ look at what our farmers do and showcase their role within the farming industry and as a supplier of quality British produce.
“As well as a fun day out guests also learn what it takes to be a successful farmer, and 92 per cent of previous visitors became more appreciative of the work that farmers do as a result of going to a farm.
“Visitors to Cappleside Farm will also learn that farming today is much more than just about growing food. It’s about being a sustainable business that cares for the environment, protects local wildlife and raises awareness about food.”
For full details of LEAF Open Farm Sunday events, including timings, booking and updates in case events have to be cancelled, see farmsunday.org.