One of the real pleasures of working at Hope Farm is showing visitors around. Many of our visitors are specifically invited due to their areas of work, influence or interest such as the visit by Farming Minister George Eustice MP last autumn at a crucial time during negotiations about future agri-environment schemes.
George Eustice MP visiting Hope Farm in October 2014 (copyright: Amy Bell, Defra)
As crucial as that type of visit was some of the more enjoyable visits are those my groups of people who are just interested in what we do. A really great opportunity to do this is during Open Farm Sunday, a nationwide event run by LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming). Over 400 farms opened their gates this year and were visited by over 250,000 people which is phenomenal success.
Abi Bunker explaining the importance of winter food provision to visitors during Open Farm Sunday at Hope Farm (copyright: Kathryn Smith)
Here at Hope Farm we ran our own Open Farm Sunday, the 2nd time we have done so recently. Last year we had 80 visitors, but this year this increased to a minimum of 350. We had guided farms tours, machinery display, bird ringing demonstration, nature treasure hunt, dragonfly hunt and livestock demonstration.
Visitors enjoying Katies' Pond during Open Farm Sunday at Hope Farm (copyright: Ellie Crane)
It was really fabulous seeing the farmyard and gardens to busy. There were people, and happy people, everywhere. While enjoying a burger from the barbeque or tea from our volunteer Mo, I got to chat to many of them. All of the comments were really positive and the comments on Twitter were also very positive. It certainly made all the work in setting the event up, and the time given by staff and volunteers, very worthwhile. Will we see you here at Open Farm Sunday in June 2016?
Today we had another group of visitors, but from a very different part of the world – Japan. Not only does Hope Farm help to demonstrate and influence wildlife friendly farming in the UK, it has done so across Europe and indeed the world. This is the 2nd visit I’ve had from Japan in the last 3 years. Today’s visitors were from the Ecosystem Conservation Society – Japan, and it was a delight to show them around. An interpreter helped with any language difficulties, but I suspect most spoke and understood English but were a little too shy. I think they went away with great ideas about how to work towards integrating management for wildlife into an intensively farmed landscape, both benefiting wildlife and the farm.
Ecosystem Conservation Society Japan visit to Hope Farm (copyright: RSPB)
I’ll be enjoying my Japanese chocolates tonight as I look back on the visits and events of the last couple of months, and think about those yet to come.