Sunshine brings a bumper crop of visitors for Open Farm Sunday
- Credit: Nick Butcher
East Anglia's diverse range of crops, livestock and landscapes were revealed to the public as farmers across the region opened their gates for Open Farm Sunday.
HARLESTON: One of the larger events was at Shotford Hall Farm, in Harleston, which drew more than 4,000 visitors for tractor and trailer rides, milking and shearing demonstrations, and children's activities – aided by more than 80 volunteers from surrounding farms, associated industries and agricultural groups.
Tenant farmer Tim Lewis, who has been running Open Farm Sunday events since the initiative started in 2006, said: 'What we are trying to do is make a link between the supermarkets and ourselves as farmers. If you go and a trailer tour they have got examples of products made from the crop that people see. So they will show them a loaf of bread at a wheat field, or a bottle of rapeseed oil at the oilseed rape field.'
Among the many visitors were Daniel and Lisa Hartgrove, from Harleston, with two-year-old son Calum. Mrs Hartgrove said: 'Calum just loves it, with all the animals and especially the tractors. It is right on our doorstep – everyone is very friendly, and when he gets a bit older it will be very educational for him.'
Mr Hartgrove, who manages the Lotus Driving Academy, said it was also educational for the adults. He said: 'It is so nice to go through the fields and talk about what crops they are growing and what they use it for. I am going to be 40 this year but you are never too old to see the tractors, and climbing on the combines is really fun.'
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WISSINGTON: Environment secretary and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss visited Cornerways Nursery, home of the UK's largest tomato glasshouse, to fly the flag for British produce on Open Farm Sunday.
The nursery, in Wissington, near King's Lynn, grows around 140 million tomatoes every year, using heat generated from the neighbouring British Sugar factory. Visitors also saw the results of a £1m investment in a new automated system that transports tomatoes around the glasshouse.
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Ms Truss said: 'Cornerways Nursery is an example of how the British food industry is an important part of our economy; it generates so many jobs and there is a significant about of science and innovation involved with producing the delicious food we eat.'
The cabinet minister was joined by Caroline Drummond chief executive of Open Farm Sunday organisers Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), who said: 'Open Farms Sunday is one way to encourage farms to open their doors and communicate their work to the public; to really show people the fascinating work they are doing.'
HOLKHAM: The sweeping grounds of Holkham Hall were the backdrop to a fun family day which showcased the estate's farming heritage.
Hundreds of visitors took the chance to see farm animals, meet the staff, and get into the driving seat of farm vehicles.
Farm manager James Beamish said: 'I think in some ways the general public are a little bit removed from where their food comes from.
'We've had some comments saying things like 'I didn't know so much went in to growing a bag of salad potatoes'.'
The estate recently launched an exhibition, Field to Fork, which tells the story of its farming history including the famous agricultural reforms of the 1st Earl of Leicester, who was known as Coke of Norfolk.
Lord Leicester, 8th Earl of Leicester, said: 'We have a lot of schools visit for various things but this (Open Farm Sunday) is when the farm really shows off its wares.'
FUNDENHALL: Visitors to Manor Farm in Fundenhall saw how a new robotic milking parlour produces two million litres a year from the farm's 200 dairy cows.
Dairy farmer Jonny Burridge said: 'We want people to understand where their food comes from and the reality of the food in the shops actually originating on farms somewhere – and it is all on your doorstep.
'It's also about breaking down barriers, helping people put a face to the farming community. If you connect it to the history of farming there have traditionally been far more people involved so there was never the need to educate, because everyone knew someone in farming. But with the progress we have made there are fewer people involved, so we need to make a more concerted effort to talk to educate people.'
Among the visitors were Jonathan and Laura Montgomerie from Diss, with their two children Sienna, two and Cadence, four.
'It is really important,' said Mr Montgomerie. 'If you are growing up in a town you are never going to see these animals unless you come to farm. We just want to explain to the children where food comes from and this is a great day out where they can see it.'
TUNSTEAD: A farm with one of the largest horticultural workforces in north Norfolk hosted a family fun day.
Place UK at Tunstead grows fruit crops including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries, employing up to 650 people, including many overseas students.
Managing director Tim Place said: 'This is our fourth year now and it has really grown exponentially since we started, we have gone from 15 people to 45 and then 300. I'm not quite sure the numbers (this year) but we've been very busy.'
'For us as farmers it's quite exciting that so many people are interested in what we're doing and we can explain how we grow our crops, especially our fruit crops which are a bit more difficult and different to grow, and how we try to make use of the environment, and the good insects to get rid of bad insects.'
Katie Smith, who lives locally, was visiting for the first time with her eight-year-old daughter Melody. She said: 'It's been a nice family day out. There is so much here for kids and they can run free and experience going on the tractors, and the magic show and circus skills workshop – it's better than sitting in front of the TV.'
MARTHAM: It was a busy weekend at Clarkes Farm in Martham, near Great Yarmouth, which attracted an estimated 3,000 visitors – about 1,000 more than last year.
Fourth generation farmer James Chapman said: 'It has been wonderful. There are families and children all over the place enjoying the farm. The amount of people here wearing shorts after the week's weather we have just had is heartening.
'This is the third year we have done it and the word has really spread. It is getting bigger and bigger.'
Visitors to the farm were treated to tractor rides, machinery displays and the chance to handle young chicks. There were also stalls hosted by the RSPB, British Sugar and a show of Nelson potatoes which are used for Kettle Chips.
Mr Chapman added: 'People who come down here get an experience of farming. You need to know to understand the countryside. We give the whole picture, with both shooting and conservation, arable and grazing land. It is not just about growing crops for food.'
EAST HARLING: Mauley's Farm in East Harling encouraged an estimated 500 visitors to learn more about Traditional Norfolk Poultry's (TNP's) exclusive free-range Norfolk Black chicken – with the pen of day-old chicks proving an instant hit with the children.
Farmer Matthew Hustler said he was proud to show off his farm, while TNP managing director Mark Gorton said it was rewarding to help visitors understand more about the business.
He said: 'Everyone is here to learn. They want to know where the chickens lay their eggs. They don't know the difference between an egg chicken and a meat chicken, but when you explain the difference they understand what we are all about.'
EASTON CAMPUS: The Norfolk campus of Easton and Otley College, outside Norwich, offered a range of events as it showcased its land-based courses during its open day.
Activities included a hobby horse Grand National, military vehicles and vintage cars, human table football, face painting, wheelchair basketball and tractor and trailer rides.
Craft outlets and food stalls were also involved, while other organisations including Norfolk Young Farmers turned out in force for the event which supported two charities: Beads of Courage and the Norfolk Dogs Trust.
College spokesman John Nice said: 'This event seems to grow in popularity every year. It's a great chance to show off the range of things we do whilst offering a relaxing and fun day out for the all the family. People came along in their thousands on one of the nicest days of the year for weather and we would like to thank the local community, all visitors, our staff and our students for creating such a great family fun day.'