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Invitation to throw open farm gates to public

Open Farm Sunday takes place on June 10 this year.
Open Farm Sunday takes place on June 10 this year.

While top dressing, fertiliser spreading, calving or lambing may be the immediate concerns of most farmers, some brave souls are also getting to grips with preparations for a task a little out of their comfort zone.

Across the country resourceful farmers are planning to open up their gates to the public and play host to a gaggle of strangers. As part of the Great British farm day, increasing numbers of agricultural experts north of the border are being encouraged to sign up to Open Farm Sunday and embrace an industry initiative offering people the chance to discover real farming first hand and see how their food is produced.

By stepping into the spotlight for the day farmers can also promote their credentials and emphasise their quality products and produce in situ – a world away from the consumer’s regular supermarket sweep.

Managed by the national charity LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), the project was launched in 2006 and since then more than 1,600 farmers have welcomed two million visitors on to farms across the UK.

In Scotland alone the initiative has seen 110,000 people visit events, with an average of 30 farms open across the country.

But LEAF is aiming to increase the number and diversity of farms participating this year north of the border by signing up new host farmers for the open day on June 10.

They would particularly like to encourage farmers to open in the Highlands and islands this year, as well as those in central locations such as the Lothians and the Forth and Clyde area, close to the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“All Scottish farmers are welcome to take part and you don’t need to be a member of LEAF,” said Rebecca Dawes, LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday co-ordinator in Scotland.

“But taking part gives farmers the opportunity to tell their own farming story and engage with their local community so they value the work farmers do to look after the environment, maintain high welfare standards and run a sustainable business.”

Since each farm is unique, their individuality is their selling point and as a result visitors can enjoy a whole range of experiences from a farm walk, nature trail, tractor and trailer rides to demonstrations, pond dipping, activities for children or a mini farmers market or farm shop.

“Whether it is a farm walk for friends and neighbours or a large open day, every event matters,” says Rebecca.

“What you do every day on your farm will be new and exciting to your visitors, so you do not need to put on lots of extra activities. For example, you could show visitors how you check livestock, milk your cows or walk your crops.”

It is free to register and all host farmers receive support and free resources to help them promote their event and keep visitors engaged and informed on the day. These include a comprehensive host farmer handbook with tips and guidance, a roadside banner, posters, flyers and postcards.

They can also decide if they would like their event listed publicly on the Open Farm Sunday website. Anyone thinking about holding an event, and would like some advice or support can contact Rebecca on 07792 467730 or ofsrc.scotland@gmail.com

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