Open Farm Sunday offers a chance to immerse yourself in farming and the countryside
From vast fields of wheat to robotic milking machines, the diverse work of the countryside will go on show this weekend as farmers throw open their gates to the public.
Open Farm Sunday on June 11 is an annual event run by Leaf (Linking Environment And Farming), offering families a fun day out to learn about the latest technology and science of farming – and giving farmers an opportunity to meet the people who eat their food.
Most of the events are free, with activities ranging from tractor trailer rides, farm walks and bug hunts, to feeding lambs, sheep shearing and milking demonstrations.
Across East Anglia, the host farms include major farming estates drawing thousands of visitors, or smaller family farms offering a more intimate experience – but all have their own offerings where people can meet the animals, marvel at machines, or simply enjoy the countryside.
The regional co-ordinator for Open Farm Sunday is David Jones, farm manager at Morley Farms, near Wymondham.
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He said: 'It is a chance to find out a bit about farming and see what goes on in the countryside.
'You hear people saying things like: 'I didn't realise that farming was so scientific', or 'I didn't realise how computerised and modern the equipment all is', or how people genuinely care for the countryside and their animals. Some people don't realise that some of these crops and some of these foods are even grown here.
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'It is a good thing to do just to raise awareness of what goes on, but also to make the connection between farming and food.
'Sometimes there is a perception that the countryside is a place 'over there', somewhere else. Well, it is all around us and it does not matter if you go one mile from Norwich or 10 miles, there are people who live and work there, producing our food.
'Here's a chance for a one-to-one conversation with the farmer and you can learn a bit more by doing that. Most events are free to enter and you can go to more than one.'
Mr Jones said although the main goal of the day was to open up farms to visitors, the engagement with the public was also beneficial for farmers.
'A lot of us are commodity producers and so it is good to meet the people who ultimately consume our products – the people who buy our foods in supermarkets and restaurants,' he said. 'In other words, anyone who eats food – and that's all of us.'
SOME THINGS YOU MIGHT LEARN AT OPEN FARM SUNDAY
• Norfolk and Suffolk are responsible for 20pc of the nation's poultry, 25pc of the UK's pig herd, 20pc of the UK's vegetables and almost 50pc of its sugar beet.
• But the biggest land use in the east of England is for cereal crops like wheat and barley, which account for almost half of our agricultural fields.
• For each square metre of wheat about 1kg of grain will be harvested the following August. That will make enough flour to make one large loaf of bread. So each hectare of wheat – about the size of a football pitch – will make more than 10,000 loaves of bread.
• East Anglia is world-renowned for the quality of its barley, much of which is malted and sent to some of the world's most famous breweries and distilleries.
• A square metre of barley will make enough malt to make 10 bottles of beer – or 265 packets of Maltesers.
• A square metre of sugar beet will generate about 1.5kg of sugar.
• Some modern dairy farms use robots to milk their cows.
• British cows produce enough milk each year to fill 6,000 Olympic swimming pools. This much milk would fill 26 billion milk bottles.
• Hi-tech computerised tractors can drive themselves around the field, using satellites to map its route.
• British hens lay 10 billion eggs a year.
WHICH FARMS ARE OPEN?
• Clarkes Farm, Staithe Road, Martham, NR29 4PT.
• click-cluck, 78 Mildenhall Road, Fordham, Ely, CB7 5NR.
• E S Burroughs & Son, Oaklands Farm, Aldeby, Beccles, NR34 0AS.
• Gressenhall Farm, Gressenhall, Dereham, NR20 4DR.
• J B Shropshire & Sons, Hainey Farm, Barway, Ely, CB7 5TZ.
• Holkham Farming Company, Wells-Next-The-Sea, NR23 1AB.
• Hundred River Farm, Valley Farm, Sotterley, Beccles, NR34 7UH.
• Lewis Partners, Shotford Hall Farm, Harleston, IP20 9QT.
• Manor Farm, The Street, Fundenhall, NR16 1DS.
• Manor Farm, Washpit Lane, Harlton, CB23 1EY.
• Old Hall Farm, Dereham Road, Westfield, Dereham, NR19 1QF.
• Park Farm, Park Farm Drive, Stanton, IP31 2DL.
• South Angle Farm Park, Angle Common, Soham, CB7 5HX.
• Walsingham Farms Shop, Guild Street Walsingham,NR22 6BU.
See the Open Farm Sunday website for more details.