Western Morning News
Virtual tours will shed light on farming life
ORGANISERS of the farming industry’s annual open day, Open Farm Sunday, have unveiled plans for a year-round programme of engagement to support the flagship event and create a diverse, colourful and authentic picture of British agriculture for the public.
In addition to the on-farm events set to take place on June 13, which have seen over a quarter of a million people visit farms across the UK each year, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) has said it will also be hosting a series of ‘virtual’ farm visits online.
Following last year’s success, when LEAF Open Farm Sunday took to screens for the first time, two ‘online’ farm open days will be held this spring and autumn, alongside a programme of monthly live broadcasts running throughout the year.
Annabel Shackleton, LEAF Open Farm Sunday manager, said 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”, with the organisation seeing a higher than ever following on its digital channels.
“This is the perfect moment to capture the public’s curiosity and build our outreach to benefit the whole industry,” she added.
While awaiting clarity on coronavirus regulations surrounding public gatherings and events, Mrs Shackleton is urging farmers to start thinking about how they can host visitors on-farm in June, which will be the 15th anniversary LEAF Open Farm Sunday. She continued: “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. 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-andtell 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 quality food production, caring for the countryside, plus the economic and environmental benefits of buying British – and we want to help facilitate these conversations.”
There is a library of free Open Farm Sunday resources and a free ticketing service so host farmers can manage visitor numbers.
LEAF, which established Open Farm Sunday in 2006, said the series of virtual farm visits online is designed to extend the opportunities for more people to connect with farming throughout the year, and for more farmers to participate. Two LEAF Online Farm Sunday events on Sunday, March 28 and Sunday, September 26, will each include an afternoon of live virtual farm tours on Facebook @LEAFOpenFarmSunday. In addition, monthly farm visits broadcast live on Facebook will feature a different farm on the first Sunday of each month, starting on Sunday, February 7.