Twenty-four farms across the Yorkshire region are preparing to open their gates to the public at a crucial time for promoting just how British farmland is managed for the nation’s benefit.
Open Farm Sunday takes place next weekend, on June 11, just days after voters go to the polls in the General Election. The election result will go some way towards determining how the Government approaches Brexit negotiations with the European Union and what sort of agricultural policy will be devised when domestic farming is no longer beholden to the rules and regulations of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
A warning has been issued to farmers in an open letter by Caroline Drummond, chief executive of Open Farm Sunday co-ordinators, LEAF, in which she urged farmers not to be complacent at this critical juncture for the industry - and that Open Farm Sunday represents a real chance to harness the support of the public, whose opinions will go some way towards how their sector will be managed in the years ahead.
Ms Drummond wrote: “The future viability of UK farming relies on the public trusting and respecting what farming delivers. For this to happen people need to feel truly engaged with how their food is produced and the countryside around them.
“Strong public support will lead to market demand, fairer prices and favourable government policy. Which is why, never before has it been so important to showcase farming’s vital role in growing our food, contributing to the economy, managing the countryside and enhancing our natural resources.”
Around 2,000 people are expected to visit ice cream and milk producers Our Cow Molly in Dungworth, Sheffield.
Among the attractions will be McCormick tractor rides, a chance to meet the farm’s dairy cows, behind the scenes tours of the milking parlour, bottling plant and ice cream making area, competitions for children, talks about flowers and plants.
The South Yorkshire business, which already supplies milk to six Co-operative stores in Sheffield, has just secured a deal to supply three local Morrisons stores.
Both retailers are backing Open Farm Sunday at Our Cow Molly, which farmer Eddie Andrew said presented him with a powerful opportunity.
He said: “It’s about getting people to value what we are doing. It is good to get the public onto the farm so that people can realise that it is not nine-to-five, a lot of long-term planning is involved and if they know what we are doing when they go to the shops, they are going to value all the work that goes into what’s on the shelves.”
Asked if the current political uncertainty made the event any more important this year, Mr Andrew added: “People choosing British food is only going to be good for us no matter what the future brings.
“From a farmer’s point of view, Open Farm Sunday is one of the most important things we can do. There are 65 million UK consumers and I would rather chance my luck getting them on my side rather than investing hope in the government.”
East Yorkshire-based Open Farm Sunday host, Tamara Hall, who runs Molescroft Farm Estate in Beverley, said she was keen to challenge people’s misconceptions about what happens behind the farm gate.
“The world of farming is often misunderstood,” Ms Hall said. “There is so much to discover at our farm. Our team, along with other local farmers who are helping on the day, are proud of the work we do and really looking forward to welcoming everyone to our farm.”
At Molescroft, many aspects of farming will be showcased, from pigs, grain and dairy to small-scale vegetable production with Frith Farm.
Curlew Fields Farm, in Hessay just outside Tockwith, North Yorkshire, is the only farm in the UK to be supported by Arla for this year’s event.
The Hildreth family have been inviting the public onto their farm for the annual event for the last five years and this time there will be a working sheepdog demonstration, an exhibit focusing on farmland birds, sausage-making, a display of Arla’s dairy products and welly-wanging.
Farmer Roger Hildreth said: “Last year’s Open Farm Sunday was a record-breaker for us, with more than 600 people coming through the gates in just a few hours.
“We are expecting this year to be even busier and we hope to do even more to increase understanding of what we, and farmers up and down the country, do every day.”
Since it was first held by LEAF in 2006, Open Farm Sunday has inspired 1.8m people to visit farms.
More than 350 farms nationally are taking part this year, including five newcomers to the event in Yorkshire.
OPEN IN YORKSHIRE ON JUNE 11
North: Berry’s Farm Shop, Birchfield Farm, Botton Social Farm, Castiles Farm, Curlew Fields Farm, Rock House Farm, Stepney Hill Farm, Stonebeck Gate Farm, Stockbridge Tech Centre, Youlton Lodge.
East: Bishop Burton College Farm, Molescroft Farm Estate.
South: Heeley City Farm, High Lea Farm, Lawns Farm, Lower Sycamore Farm, Loxley Valley Community Farm, Manor Farm, Our Cow Molly, Whirlow Hall Farm.
West: Farmer Copley, Green End Farm, Stirley Community Farm, Yummy Yorkshire.
For more details, visit www.farmsunday.org