Urgency to get public to value food they eat behind boon in LEAF Open Farm Sunday numbers

Twenty-four farms from Yorkshire have so far signed up to hold LEAF Open Farm Sunday events on June 9. Picture by Richard Osborne.
Twenty-four farms from Yorkshire have so far signed up to hold LEAF Open Farm Sunday events on June 9. Picture by Richard Osborne.

A growing urgency to get people to value what they eat is behind a surge in interest from farmers to support British agriculture’s big annual open day, its national co-ordinator said.

Some 300 farms, ten per cent more than this time last spring, have registered to host events as part of LEAF Open Farm Sunday on June 9.

The open day is co-ordinated nationally by the charity LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) to give the public a first-hand insight into farming and to close the knowledge gap that exists between food producers and the public in general - aims that farmers are seeing particular value in this year, the event’s manager Annabel Shackleton said.

“With Brexit on the horizon, the potential threat of cheap foreign imports and so much mis-communication about food production, farmers are more aware than ever of the value of clubbing together to demonstrate the high standards British farmers are working to,” Ms Shackleton said.

“Whatever the future holds, as an industry we have to be proactive and connect the public with farming so that people value the food they eat, the work farmers do and are proactive in buying British produce.”

Host farm numbers may be up but Ms Shackleton urged more farmers to seize “the perfect time” to strengthen their connection with their customers.

“We are calling on more farmers across England, Scotland and Wales, of every size and every sector, to fill the gaps across the country, open their farm and to share their story,” she said.

“We need more farms to respond to the public’s compelling appetite to visit a farm and learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced. It’s the perfect time for farmers to strengthen the connection with their customers when the industry is being challenged by policy changes, dietary trends and, potentially, cheap foreign imports.”

LEAF is hoping for a record response from farmers in Yorkshire. A high so far of 30 farms from the region opened their gates to the public as part of the event in 2010, and with a month to go before the open day returns, 24 farms in Yorkshire have signed up to the initiative.

Some 17 farms in North Yorkshire are taking part so far, three each in South and West Yorkshire, and one in East Yorkshire.

Endorsing the story that Yorkshire farmers have to tell, Ms Shackleton said: “I’ve just spent the Bank Holiday weekend in North Yorkshire, eaten delicious Yorkshire produce and walked miles of footpaths appreciating all the work farmers do.

“We need the public to understand that farmers are fundamental to our heritage, to our landscape, to the local economy and by opening your gates for farming’s annual open day you are playing an essential part in building trust in British farming.”

Long-standing LEAF Open Farm Sunday host, Kate Morgan, who runs indoor and outdoor breeding sows with her sister Vicky at their pig farm in East Yorkshire, also encouraged her peers to get involved.

“Although we live in the countryside, it doesn’t mean that everyone knows what goes on on a farm,” she said.

“We are all very busy in our day-to-day jobs, but this is one thing everyone should make time for. These children are our consumers and we must all invest time in them.”

A growing urgency to get people to value what they eat is behind a surge in interest from farmers to support British agriculture’s big annual open day, its national co-ordinator said.

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