Visit a Farm for Open Farm Sunday 2018
I was brought up on a farm, so it’s taken me a while to engage with the idea of visiting other people’s farms. Our family farm is no longer operational, so our children have not had the pleasure of tractor rides on tap, feeding calves and playing in a hay barn. So the last couple of years we’ve been exploring on Open Farm Sunday as we do love to get out side. So why not take a look at what to expect when you visit a farm on Open Farm Sunday and here’s some ideas for where to visit.
Follow the link for the full list of locations all around the country. If you have yet to try out Open Farm Sunday then I really recommend it. This year it’s on Sunday 10th June.
Farmers will be rushing around in the days before tidying up their yards, hiding the accumulation of old fertiliser and silage bags, removing the trip hazzards and putting up no access signs. So do them a favour and show how much we really appreciate what they do by taking an interest in their work this weekend. The events are usually free, although there may well be tasty things to buy, so don’t go empty handed.
What To Expect?
This will of course depend on the type of farm. We have previously visited Furzeleigh Down Farm near Axminster. This is a dairy farm that has diversified with a tea room and the most wonderful ice cream. So of course we expected to see cows.
When I was a child all the cows were milked individually (mainly by my dad) and I used to help out in the milking parlour – I think it’s fair to say I didn’t get the best jobs and wellies were always needed! We also used to sell our milk. I clearly remember dunking an old jug in the huge milk chiller and filling up the cartons (the old waxy type) and sealing them with what seemed like a huge clamp. Proper raw milk, just hours old. Food hygiene was not really on the radar so much in those days!
Modern Farming Methods
These days it’s very different. I had heard all about automated dairy systems but never seem one in action. At Furzeleigh Down there was access to the indoor cow shed where the milking cows spend their days, so we got a good look at how it works.
Here the cows are all electronically tagged and happily mooch around, taking it in turns to use the giant back scratcher. When they feel like it they head off into the special area to eat and be milked. A computerised system decides if the need either, if so food appears and the automatic milking process starts with an udder wash. If they are not due to be milked or had their food allocation for the day, then nothing happens so the cow wanders off again. It’s so clever! Under this system the cows stay inside for a few months and go outside to the fields once they are dry i.e they’ve run out of milk until they give birth again.
Things to Buy
Some places will set up like a little fete with stalls, food to purchase and other things to do. At Furzeleigh we had chat with the local vet, sampled some wine and had an ice cream of course! Take some money with you, but entrance should be free so there is no obligation to spend anything. To be honest if you have young children they are sure to be thrilled with whatever is on offer.
Most Open Farms will offer walks, animals to see and tractor rides.
Each farm taking part in the scheme will have different things to offer, so its worth having a look on Open Farm Sunday website or the farm’s own web or Facebook page for more details. Farms may have pigs, beef cattle, small animals to pet or a farm shop.
Dennings Down Farm
Last year we visited this farm just outside Axminster in East Devon.
There was a lovely walk (or tractor ride) around the farm and a bee keeper on hand which was really interesting. The children loved also cooking camp fire damper (bread on sticks) in the woods.
At Dennings Down Farm you can also see farm animals; cows, calves, ewes and lambs and learn about how the farm is run. Try pond dipping and the wild flower meadow walks. There will be a woodland walk, den building & camp fires as well as tractor and trailer rides. Bee keeping and traditional long bow making and a pole lathe for wood turning. Refreshments are home made cream tea’s (donation to charity).
Directions and details click here.
Where To Visit Open Farm Sunday 2018
Open Farm Sunday is a UK wide event and most farms taking part will have registered for it. The web site is great. You can easily select your region and then zoom in on the map to see which ones are local to you.
Here are some others in the Devon / Dorset / Somerset border area – I’ve also added in direct links where I have found them:
Furzeleigh Down Farm : dairy farm, tractor rides, café, Furzeleigh Dair’s own ice cream, scarecrow competition and lots more going on.
Gatcombe Farm near Seaton : Robotic milking, dairy cows and youngstock, vet, sheep shearing and foot trimming demonstrations, machinery area, calf rearing area, pigs, tractor and trailer rides, Dalwood Vineyard, Semex.
Refreshments by The Grazing Cow. Ice creams from Verneys Molton Ice and Licensed Bar Branscombe Brewery. Entry free of charge, donations welcome to a charity, well behaved dogs welcome. More details here.
Dennings Down Farm Smallridge nr Axminster – den and campfire building, tractor rides (see above)
Otter Farm near Sidmouth; Offering guided farm tours between 1200-1600, led by one of the Clinton Farms team, including a chance to see the cows being milked inside the parlour. There will be fun hands on things for visitors of all ages – for little ones things to see, hear, touch and smell; cardboard cows to make and tractors to sit in!
Older visitors might be interested in the farm vet’s demonstrations or a timetable of talks and Q&A sessions from a range of speakers at our ‘expert hub’. There will be conservation organisations including the Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver trial and Pebblebed Heath Conservation Trust who are involved nearby on the River Otter.
All of this is free, although there will also be a few stalls – local honey and Usbourne books, a raffle and a ‘guess the weight of the calf’ competition to raise money for charity. . Local food producers Titley Green and Eat your Smoke will be there to buy food from as well as an ice-cream tricycle.
Access to the farm will be from the north of Colaton Raleigh and will be well signed. We hope many local people might walk to us along the river path as the footpath from Newton Poppleford to Otterton (and then Budleigh) crosses the farm.
Kenniford Farm near Exeter – lots happening at this pig farm and farm shop: Live music from La Vie en Rose, hog roast, farm tours, Gin, fizz and mocktail tent, machinery and tractors, tractor & trailer rides, beer and cider tent, sausage making demos, wine tasting from Lyme bay winery, face painting, wild flower crafting, bouncy castle, arts and crafts from creation station, coconut shy, pig racing, cream teas and more!
West Town Farm (Ide, West of Exeter) mixed farm, animal feeding, tractor rides, farm shop and cafe.
Quickes near Exeter – You will get to meet the cows and follow the milk on its journey from the cow right the way through to despatch as the world renowned Quickes cheddar. Attend a cheese making demo and taste the cheese that everyone wants! You will see the machinery used and learn about the Kiwi grazing system aiming to keep cows out at grass for as much of the year as possible. Other stall holders from agriculture will be on hand – vets, agronomists and our feed company to answer every and any question you might have about farming. You can have a go at driving a telehandler, see the calves and have a tractor ride around the farm. Guess how much a cow eats in a day and learn about our soils. Quickes Open Farm Sunday is about education and fun.
Washingpool Farm Shop near Bridport – small holding farm plus fun activities on the day.
Frogmary Green Farm South Petherton – Digger challenge, tractors and machinery, animals and crops. Lakes and wildlife areas, craft area for children, quiz for all the family, sheep shearing demos, food stalls and farm shop.
Burrow Farm near Exeter – a working mixed arable and beef farm situated on the National Trust’s Killerton Estate on the outskirts of Exeter. Tractor and Trailer rides, meat our animals and feed the calves. BBQ with our own home produced meat.
and a pop up farm shop.
Langford Lakes Christmas Tree Farm near Wellington – a family run 40 acre farm, specializing in Nordman Fir and Norway Spruce Christmas Trees. Growing and selling Christmas trees for more than 20 years. Visitors will be able to enjoy walks around the plantations, lakes and woodland and they will also be hosting a Craft Fair. There will be the opportunity to speak with expert Christmas tree growers. Tea, coffee & cakes will be available for a donation to The Children’s Hospice South West or bring a picnic and enjoy it by the lakes.
Grab Your Wellies and Get Outside
I really hope that you are able to visit a farm for Open Farm Sunday this year. They are usually free events and worth a trip out for. A lot of children do not have the chance to get up close to a real farm and really learn where our food comes from – these days it seems even more important that we can engage with nature and rural life whenever possible.
You may not really need your wellies but cow sheds and farm yards can’t guarantee to be muck free! And if you can’t wear wellies to a farm then when can you?
If you want any more details then here is my write up about the ice cream at Furzeleigh Down Dairy near Axminster
Fellow blogger Hannah has been to West Town Farm and Kenniford Farm Shop (which also has a little indoor play area) on separate occasions as well and Steph from Exploring Exeter has written about Quickes Dairy.
Dogs? Please check with the individual farm listing on the OFS website but many do not allow dogs.
Have a great weekend and please leave a comment below to let me know how you get on.