Engaging with consumers is vital to future of the pig industry

This year’s Open Farm Sunday on June 5th will see hundreds of farms all over the country open their gates to the public. Since it began in 2006, 1.6 million people have visited a farm on Open Farm Sunday, which is now firmly established as the farming industry’s annual open day.

Open Farm Sunday manager Annabel Shackleton says the theme for this year is Discover the world of farming.

“Open Farm Sunday is a fantastic opportunity for pig farmers to connect with the public, share their story, and showcase all that is best about the British pig industry,” she adds. “At a time when pork prices are the lowest for more than half a decade, it’s absolutely vital that we get the public backing British.

“Taking part in Open Farm Sunday is a great opportunity for pig farmers to showcase the excellent job they do to produce healthy nutritious British pork. Their commitment to improving efficiency and animal welfare deserves recognition by consumers and everyone in the production chain in order to safeguard the future of the higher-welfare British pig industry.”

As well as helping to raise the profile of the pig industry and encourage a new generation of farmers into the sector, it can also bring real business benefits to farmers who get involved. In fact, last year more than 95% of farmers who took part reported real business benefits.

Community relations
Large-scale outdoor pig business Packington Pork is one operation that sees taking part in Open Farm Sunday as vital to the future of the pig industry. Packington Pork, part of Mercer Farming, a fourth generation family farming business in Staffordshire, has opened up the farm for the past two years, and will be taking part again this year.

“For us, it is all about giving back to the local community,” explains Rob Mercer. “Taking part in Open Farm Sunday gives families a chance to visit our farm, free of charge, for a fun family day out and educate themselves and their children on agriculture and food production.

“Buying British-produced, traceable food is so important as this gives customers the knowledge and reassurance of where their food is produced. Open Farm Sunday plays a vital role in promoting British farming.”

The organiser of Packington Pork’s Open Farm Sunday event, Evie Leedham, echoes these sentiments, saying the sense of pleasure and pride she gets when visitors leave and make a point of saying thank you is really rewarding.

“Knowing that when they buy a packet of ham from the supermarket, they’re more aware of the story behind it – where it’s come from, how it’s been produced from pigs that have a nice life, with plenty of space and enrichment, makes it all worthwhile,” she adds.

Evie also points out that with the current state of pork prices, the industry needs to do all it can to shout about what it’s doing.

“With pig prices at an eight-year low, it’s vital that pig farmers show consumers the great job they do to produce top-quality meat with care for the countryside as well as reinforce the buy British message,” she says.

Biosecurity is a particular consideration for livestock farmers taking part in Open Farm Sunday. But, as Evie explains, it doesn’t have to be onerous.

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Open Farm Sunday is an opportunity for farmers and the public to connect

“You just have to take a sensible approach,” she says. “A few simple measures are all that’s needed. Providing hand washing facilities and footbaths, putting up signage reminding visitors of the need to wash hands, marking off areas where visitors are not permitted and encouraging visitors to take personal responsibility for their own safety are the main things to consider. It’s just common sense really.”

A few common sense measures are all that’s needed to make your Open Farm Sunday event safe and enjoyable:

  • Provide adequate hand washing facilities (running water, liquid soap and paper towels.
  • Hand gels are no substitute for hand washing) and footbath facilities.
  • Supervise animal contact areas and separate them from eating areas.
  • Mark off areas of the farm where visitors are not permitted.
  • Provide signage giving information on the level of animal contact permitted.
  • Encourage visitors to take personal responsibility for their own and their family’s safety while visiting your farm.

Get Involved
Open Farm Sunday is all about showing the public what farmers do on their farms and helping people to understand how their food is produced. Events don’t have to be for hundreds of people; a short farm walk with neighbours makes a great Open Farm Sunday event. The size, type of event and timing is all up to host farmers.

Farmers are just asked to register their event – a simple process that’s free-of-charge. Whether you invite 30 or 300 visitors to your farm, be part of this year’s Open Farm Sunday – celebrating British farming and food.

  • Register your event: Easy to do and free-of-charge. Register at www.farmsunday.org. Once registered you will receive your free Host Farmer Handbook.
  • Order your free resources: A range of resources to promote your event and use on the day: flyers, posters, invitations, roadside banners, information posters, activities and handouts for visitors.
  • Collaborate: Ask the people involved in your business to get involved – it helps spread the work load and helps show visitors the full breadth of your business.
  • Get top tips on hosting an event: Come along to a free farmer’s information event taking place over the next few months. For details and to book your place visit the Open Farm Sunday website.
  • Plan your event: To suit you and your farm. Decide on the number of visitors you would like and plan accordingly – refer to the Host Farmer Handbook for further help.
  • Promote your event: Use LEAF’s free promotional resources to promote your event.

For more information about Open Farm Sunday and to take part visit: www.farmsunday.org.

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