East Anglian farmers set to welcome the public on Open Farm Sunday
- Credit: Nick Butcher
East Anglian farms will throw open their gates to the public this weekend, giving thousands of visitors the chance to experience, enjoy and understand the workings of the countryside.
Open Farm Sunday on June 5 will feature a diverse range of businesses across the region, including the 'birthplace of modern agriculture' at the Holkham estate, specialist tomato and fruit growers, and arable and livestock enterprises ranging from vast commercial holdings to small family farms.
The annual celebration, run by charity Leaf (Linking Environment and Farming), offers a fun day out for families, with opportunities to tour fields and farmyards, meet the workers and enjoy close encounters with animals.
But there is an important message too. During a prolonged period of low commodity prices – and with the looming EU referendum carrying more potential uncertainties about future farm subsidies, regulation and markets – farmers said there has never been a better time to build public understanding about the challenges of producing food, managing resources and protecting the environment.
David Jones of Morley Farms, near Wymondham, is the regional co-ordinator for Open Farm Sunday. He said: 'There are always issues like this and we have got to keep working at the message and talking about what goes on, and some of the implications.
'One way or another we all need food, and it is all produced by farmers somewhere in the world. So let's be positive about it and let's, as farmers, share what we do, be proud of what we do and talk about it openly.
'It will be a very enjoyable day. Most events are free and there will be something for everyone.'
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Mr Jones said many open farm events represented a collaborative venture between several farmers and associated organisations.
'For every farm there will be a lot of people involved,' he said. 'For my event I am relying on 30 other people to help me out, whether its other farmers or agricultural engineers or people from British Sugar or Syngenta. They all come together on one farm to share their expertise.'
Mr Jones advised Open Farm Sunday visitors to plan their day and check the Open Farm Sunday website for opening times. His own event at Morley will be held a week later, on June 12, so it does not clash with the open day at nearby Easton and Otley College.
Another farmer taking part on Open Farm Sunday is Tim Lewis at Shotford Hall Farm in Harleston, which is offering a typically varied experience of trailer rides, machinery displays, prize beef cattle, sheep shearing and milking demonstrations.
He said: 'Because agriculture is a very open workplace, you drive around the country and you see a big piece of machinery in a field and you might wonder what it is doing. It is nice to be able to make these links with the community and answer their questions.
'People will say: 'Forgive me for asking a silly question,' but we are coming from an informed position and we want to pass information on, so people have a better understanding of what we do to produce the food they buy in the supermarket.'
OPEN FARMS IN OUR REGION:
• Cambs Farms Growers, Barway, Ely, CB7 5TZ: A family-owned business growing salads, root vegetables and arable crops.
• Clarkes Farm, Martham, NR29 4PT: The family-run farm will show a diverse range of crops and livestock, with help from neighbouring farmers and businesses.
• Click Cluck, Fordham, CB7 5NR: Small poultry enterprise, showing chicks hatching and all stages of rearing poultry. Also rare breeds of goats, pigs, cows, and horses.
• Cornerways Nurseries, Wissington, PE33 9RS: British Sugar's horticulture business produces around 140 million tomatoes a year at its 18-hectare nursery.
• Easton Campus, Easton, NR9 5GA: The land-based college will showcase its courses and offer many fun activities.
• Hall Farm, Coldham Estate, Wisbech, PE14 0LX: A 4,000-acre arable farm growing onions, potatoes, sugar beet and combineable crops.
• Holkham Farming Company, Wells, NR23 1AB: At the 'birthplace of modern agriculture', Holkham Farming Company now manages 3,000 hectares combining livestock and arable production.
• Lewis Partners, Shotford Hall Farm, Harleston, IP20 9QT: Shotford Hall is a mixed farming business with milking cows, beef cattle, crops and farm contracting.
• Manor Farm, Fundenhall, NR16 1DS: A mixed family-run farm including poultry, arable crops and robotic milking machines for its dairy cows.
• The Morley Agricultural Foundation, Morley, NR18 9DF: The organisation and farm has a long history agricultural research and field trials, growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape, sugar beet and peas. (This event takes place on Sunday, June 12)
• Mauley's Farm, East Harling, NR15 1EN: A traditional free-range poultry farm, producing the exclusive Norfolk Black Chicken.
• Old Hall Farm, Dereham, NR19 1QF: A mixed farm with Aberdeen Angus cattle, Tamworth pigs, Hebridean sheep and arable crops – as well as several protected wildlife sites.
• Park Farm, Thorington, IP17 3QX: A 300,000-bird broiler farm, with 1,500 hectares of arable land.
• Place UK, Tunstead, NR12 8RQ: One of the UK's largest soft fruit growers, producing strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries.
• Triangle Farm/ South Angle Farm Park, Soham, CB7 5HX: South Angle Farm Park, a small educational farm with a variety of animals, is teaming up with its neighbours at Triangle Farm to provide the full farm experience.
• The Grange, Rollesby, NR29 5AJ: A family farm focused on growing fruit and vegetables, suppling local retailers with a PYO and a small farm shop.
• Troston Farms, Park Farm, Stanton, IP31 2DL: The farm grows cereals, rye and sugar beet, and offers a chance to meet pigs and piglets, plus woodland wallks.
• Walsingham Farms Shop, Walsingham, NR22 6BU: A chance to tour the crops and livestock of the Walsingham Estate and meet producers including a quail farmer and a local microbrewery.
For full details and opening times, click here.