Outdoor Learning Experiences

Supporting learning and engagement with the natural environment for all ages

Tag: #ofs16

Why farmers open to the public

Open Farm Sunday 2016

In 2008 I interviewed 34 about their motivations, and rewards, for hosting visits to their farms. As we approach the month of “Open farm schooldays” and the weekend of Open Farm Sunday, when more than 400 farmers will open their doors to the public, it’s worth revisiting the reasons why they do so.

  1. A belief that the wider public (children and parents alike) had lost touch with the knowledge about where food comes from. Famers are keen to explain how food is produced, and teach children about the source of the food they eat. “It’s important for the agricultural industry to engage with customers and future customers.”
  2. A belief that that children need to be taken out of the classroom to experience different learning opportunities.  “Education of children through hands-on visits to farms rather than books and academic work a better way”.
  3. A desire for children to learn about their local environment. “The school curriculum [comes from] far afield: Africa, S America… but local countryside should be included also”
  4. Many farmers feel privileged to have access to the countryside, and want to share this with others.  “Sharing countryside with people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be there.”
  5. “To show them why we do what we do.” Explaining complicated farming operations to those who might observe this from a distance, justifying the use of current farming practices, including methods of rearing livestock, use of pesticides and herbicides.  “Get people out, see what we do, grow.”
  6. A desire to justify the subsidies that farmers are given. Farmers were well aware that they receive a large amount from the public purse in the form of subsidies and grants, and felt they should show how the money was used, and why it was needed.  “Feel it is part of the social responsibility of farmers to educate the wider public.”
  7. Counteract the bad press of E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, Mad Cow disease. Farmers want to show counteract these fears by showing that they are farming responsibly.  “show how we make food safe and affordable.”
  8. Promote agricultural careers.  “The more we can interact with children it will affect their decisions about what they want to do and where they want to work.”
  9. Take pride in their work, their industry. “Overcomes “get off my land” perception.” “To promote the industry we spend our lives in.”
  10. In addition to these industry concerns, many farmers said they did it because of the personal rewards of seeing children really enjoying themselves, and discovering about food, farming and the countryside. “Pleasure out of seeing them enjoy themselves.”  This personal, heart-warming reward was, for many, justification in itself to do the visits. “I’m very lucky in what I do.” 

 

To see the full research report visit http://bit.ly/1XQgyso

#ofs2016; @francesharris00; @outdoorlearnin2

Why Open Farm Sunday?

Open Farm Sunday 2016

Farming is the industry that produces much of our food, and the land on which food is produced is very visible to the public, as we drive by on roads or walk through the countryside. However, the opportunity to see or speak to the farmer, who is the manager of the food production business, is less common. Yet what comes from the farm impacts on our view of the countryside, what we eat, and the local ecology, land use and wider environment.

Open Farm Sunday provides the opportunity to speak to farmers. It is scheduled for the time of year when farms are full of arable crops and livestock (including calves and lambs) but before farmers are busy with harvesting. It’s a chance to meet farmers, hear from them, ask questions, and engage in discussion and debate about what they do and why they do it.

It’s also a chance for farmers to present a realistic view of what farming is all about these days. It’s not all about old men with straw in their hair: farmers can be women as well as men, and young too!

Modern farming is high tech, environmentally aware, caring about the soil, animal welfare and ecology, while also providing food for customers. Farmers are also custodians of miles of public access footpaths and bridleways which provide the opportunity for anyone to get out and take a walk in nature.

Open Farm Sunday has been running for more than 10 years now. On one Sunday, farmers across the country open their gates and invite the public in to find out more about what they do on a daily basis. Events vary, from farm walks to larger events with multiple activities. This year, there will be a range of activities to explain some of the science in farming.

For teachers and schools, Open Farm School days offers the opportunity for a farm visit for a whole class on a school day. If you are a teacher whole is wondering about farm visits, Open Farm Sunday can be a good opportunity to check out a farm visit yourself, prior to arranging to bring the children along.

To find a farm near you, go to https://farmsunday.org/  It promises to be a great day out!