Following a year in which LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) has encouraged thousands of people to join virtual farm tours across the country, the sustainable farming organisation has reported that over 100 farms opened their gates on 27th June for LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2021 – farming’s annual open day.
For the first LEAF Open Farm Sunday since June 2019, thousands of people took the opportunity to visit a working farm and see first-hand all that is involved in the sustainable production of the food they eat and what farmers do to look after the wider environment. Given the current Covid regulations, less farms than usual chose to open, with pre-booking a key requirement to limit visitor numbers, but this did not diminish the enthusiasm farmers put in to sharing their farming stories and showcasing British farming. Most farms offered socially-distanced farm walks or guided tours, giving visitors a great opportunity to talk directly with farmers and enjoy a really personal experience of farming.
Caroline Drummond, LEAF Chief Executive, said: “A huge thank you to all the farmers who opened their gates on Sunday. LEAF’s ‘Take 30’ campaign to encourage farmers to take small groups of 30 on a farm walk clearly resonated really well. Of the farms that opened, 1 in 3 did so for the first time, so it was wonderful to welcome some new farmers into the LEAF Open Farm Sunday family. We also really appreciated the feedback we’ve had from farmers who, for a variety of reasons, chose not to open this June, but sent messages of support. Many of them have indicated that they plan to open again in 2022 and we’re already looking forward to next year.”
“It has never been more important that we continue to raise awareness of all that British farmers deliver in supporting our health and wellbeing, producing nutritious food, managing our beautiful countryside and protecting and enhancing our environment through climate positive, regenerative farming. As an industry, we need to build deeper and stronger connections with consumers, to have conversations, answer questions and seize every opportunity to share what we are doing to address the climate and nature emergency. In doing so, this will help drive appreciation, trust and ultimately more informed food choices.”
Ms Drummond also acknowledged the long-term support from LEAF Open Farm Sunday Principal Sponsors: AHDB, Arla Foods, Asda, BASF, Co-op, Farmers Weekly, Frontier Agriculture, John Deere, Kellogg’s, LEAF Marque, NFU, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. “There is no better way to achieve support from the public than by direct on-farm experiences like LEAF Open Farm Sunday – which is why I would also like to thank all our sponsors for their ongoing and vital support, as without them, none of this would be possible.”
Defra Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis MP joined Caroline Drummond for a tour of Rectory Farm near Oxford, and said: “I am delighted to support LEAF Open Farm Sunday and congratulate all the farmers and their helpers who welcomed the public onto farms on Sunday.”
“British farmers do so much to not only produce the nutritious food we eat, but also to care for the environment. It is vital that people understand more about all that farmers do and the high standards of food production and animal welfare in Britain.”
Rectory Farm, which has a thriving soft fruit and vegetable Pick Your Own, also produces LEAF Marque certified wheat, potatoes and asparagus for processing, supplying supermarkets and also direct sales to local delis and restaurants. The fully booked LOFS event welcomed 50 visitors each hour during the day to learn about sustainable farming, see the machinery used on the farm and meet the Stanley family, their farming team and friends – all there to showcase British farming.
Imogen Stanley who led the tour with Minister Prentis, spoke of the importance of communicating with the public: “I’m so keen to help educate children and families about farming and how food is produced. Everyone needs to be eating more freshly cooked produce, and what better way to do that than by giving visitors the experience of picking their own fruit and vegetables, and meeting the farmers who grow crops on a commercial scale. It was a pleasure to meet Minister Prentis, show her round our event and introduce her to the wonderful team of farming friends who have all volunteered to help tell the story of farming to visitors at our Open Farm Sunday event.”