Opening up to meet surge in farming interest

Farmers are being encouraged to consider hosting a farm open day later this year.

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Farmers are being asked to think about how they might host the public – online or for real, depending on Covid rules – in June this year.

LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), organisers of the farming industry’s annual open day, LEAF Open Farm Sunday, has also announced a year-round programme of public engagement to support this flagship event.

Open Farm Sundays have seen more than a quarter of a million people visit farms across the UK each year since the event’s inauguration 15 years ago.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2021 will take place on June 13, but in addition to this LEAF will this year host two ‘virtual’ farm open days in the spring and autumn, alongside a programme of monthly live Facebook broadcasts running throughout the year.

‘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, and we have seen a higher following than ever on our LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LOFS) digital channels,’ said LOFS Manager Annabel Shackleton.

‘This is the perfect moment to capture the public’s curiosity and build our outreach to benefit the whole industry.’

While awaiting clarity on Covid regulations on public gatherings and events, Mrs Shackleton is urging farmers to start thinking about how they can host visitors on farms in June.

All these activities are aimed at promoting a greater understanding of the different aspects of agriculture such as productive soils, animal welfare, clean water and air, public access and enhancing biodiversity.

‘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,’ Mrs Shackleton continued.

‘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. It may also be an opportunity to collaborate with other food producers to provide a place for people to buy and try new local foods.

‘Farmers have some important topical messages to share about high 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 planned for March will help to make hosting easier and facilitate ideas sharing between the network of experienced and new hosts.

Plus, a free, easy-to-use ticketing service is available so host farmers can manage visitor numbers and contact visitors if there are any changes in plans.

The main social media channels used across the campaign will be Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and LOFS is asking farmers to post and share on these days using the hashtag #LOFS21 to create a diverse, colourful and authentic picture of UK farming for the public.

To find out more and to register to host LEAF Open Farm Sunday in June 2021, visit www.farmsunday.org.

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Farmers are being encouraged to consider hosting a farm open day later this year. no_a09FarmOpenDays01