Open Farm Sunday Places to Visit
Visit a Farm for Open Farm Sunday
I was brought up on a farm, so it’s only been recently since I have taken the kids to Open Farm Sunday events that I have visited 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. Take a look at what to expect when you visit a farm on Open Farm Sunday and some ideas for where to visit. This year it’s on Sunday 9th 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 things to buy or tea and cakes, 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 about automated or robotic dairy systems but never seen 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 the cows head off into the special area for food and to be milked. A computerised system reads their tag and decides if they need milking. 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 the 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.
Where To Visit Open Farm Sunday 2019
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 of the Open Farms in the Devon / Dorset / Somerset border area.
Dennings Down Farm, Axminster. This farm is just outside Axminster in East Devon. When we visited there was a lovely walk around the farm (or tractor ride) 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 will see farm animals; beef cattle, calves, ewes and lambs and learn about how the farm is run. Try pond dipping and enjoy the wild flower meadow walks.
Dennings Down Farm has a woodland walk, den building & camp fires as well as tractor and trailer rides. Bee keeping, rural crafts and more. Refreshments are home made cream tea’s (donation to Farm Africa charity).
Gatcombe Farm near Seaton : Robotic milking of dairy cows, sheep shearing and foot trimming demonstrations, machinery area, calf rearing area, pigs, tractor and trailer rides, Dalwood Vineyard, ice creams, licensed Bar Branscombe Brewery and BBQ. Entry free of charge, donations welcome to a charity.
CANCELLED – Furzeleigh Down Farm near Axminster. Note the tearoom serving Furzeleigh Dairy’s own ice cream opens independently of the farm.
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 tele-handler, 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.
Darts Farm, Topsham. A fun day out for all the family with a host of activities taking place throughout the day and a chance to meet some of the farmers’ animals. Many local food and drink producers will also be on hand with plenty of sampling along the way!
Kenniford near Exeter. At this pig farm you can meet the pigs, have a farm tour and learn about where your food comes from.
A fun and free educational day out for all the family. Hog roast, live music, beer tent, tractor rides and cream teas.
Face painting, nature walks, inflatables and more. More details on the farms’s facebook page for timings and information.
No dogs. Ample parking.
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.
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.
Rodway Farm, Cannington, Bridgwater & Taunton College’s campus will be open on Sunday 9 June. This is an exciting opportunity to visit a working farm within the complexity of an educational establishment. Meet the dairy cows, sheep and pigs, discover how your food is produced and the animals cared for, then enjoy a tractor and trailer ride around the farm to learn about the growing of arable crops. If you’re interested in a career in the industry, staff will be available to provide course information and careers advice, including how to secure an Apprenticeship in the sector.
Washingpool Farm Shop near Bridport – small holding farm plus fun activities on the day.
Lavender Keepers, Sandford Orcas: A free range pig farm with 160 outdoor Tamworth’s. Trailer rides up to see the pigs in the field. Live music and hog roast. Cider bar. Bacon, sausages, pork joints for sale. Enjoy our amazing views, beautiful new lavender garden, picnics. Educate and explain all about the way we farm.
Bayard Dairy, Upwey, Weymouth. Working dairy farm in action. Meet their incredible animals who are looked after in wonderful facilities, to high standards. Enjoy a tractor trailer ride around the farm to learn about the crops we grow to feed our cows, see the local landmarks and views of our wonderful area and the Jurassic coast. Taste samples of dairy produce. There will be lots of information explaining how we produce food. Ask questions to members of the team. There will be fun and games for children. Other local food producers will have food and drink for sale.
Follow the link for the full list of locations all around the country – Open Farm Sunday
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.