LEAF'S nationwide Open Farm Sunday campaign has already signed up 10% more farmers than this time last year, raising hopes that the event might be the biggest yet.

Three hundred farms from Jersey to Shetland are already committed to opening their gates on the June 9 to give the public a first-hand insight into farming – but organisers are encouraging more farmers to seize the opportunity to connect with the consumer and build loyalty and support for the British farming industry.

“We are calling on more farmers across England, Scotland and Wales, of every size and every sector, to fill the gaps across the country, open their farm and to share their story,” said LEAF OFS manager, Annabel Shackleton. “We need more farms to respond to the public’s compelling appetite to visit a farm and learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced. It’s the perfect time for farmers to strengthen the connection with their customers when the industry is being challenged by policy changes, dietary trends and, potentially, cheap foreign imports.”

Of the 362 farms which hosted a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event last year, 26% did so for the first time, the highest number to date. These farms encompassed all types of farm enterprise – arable, livestock and dairy through to horticulture.

“Even at this stage there is still time to organise a small event such as a farm walk for a few people,”Mrs Shackleton continued. “This can be out in the fields where you keep preparation to a minimum – a great starting point if you are hosting for the first time. You decide what size of event to run, what visitors see, for how long and can manage visitor numbers through our free online ticketing service. Every event matters and every conversation helps bridge that gap between producers and consumers.”

As well as thanking the farmers taking part this year, Mrs Shackleton praised the commitment of the event's principal sponsors, which include Arla Foods, Asda, BASF plc, the Co-op, Defra, Frontier Agriculture, John Deere Limited, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

In addition to their financial support, these sponsors produce a range of free materials and giveaways to inspire and engage visitors about farming and all it delivers.

BASF's Rob Gladwin commenting: “Sponsoring LEAF Open Farm Sunday gives us an opportunity to support an initiative we whole-heartedly believe in. For farmers, preserving the land is common sense; for their business, for their communities and for the next generation. We work hand in hand with growers, ensuring we share our knowledge and solutions to help them to continue to farm sustainably and profitably. LEAF Open Farm Sunday is a unique event and opportunity to showcase the efforts of farmers, educating the public on the hard work and passion that goes into putting food on UK tables.”

The combined positive impact of farms across the UK opening for this annual event is huge. In a visitor survey carried out in 2018, 92% said they had a greater appreciation of the work that farmers do after visiting a farm; 86% said they felt more connected to the farmers who produced their food, and 78% reported they were now more proactively looking to buy British food.

Farmers interested in opening for LEAF Open Farm Sunday can find out more and register at www.farmsunday.org. Once registered, farmers receive a handbook and free resources.