Visit a Farm for Open Farm Sunday
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. Sadly 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. Last year as it was a lovely afternoon and there was the promise of ice cream, I decided we should go and visit a farm on Open Farm Sunday.
If you have yet to try out Open Farm Sunday then I really recommend it. This year it’s on Sunday 11th June.
Farmers will be rushing around madly this week in preparation, 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 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. Last year we 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 by hand (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 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 cows wander 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.
Some places will set up like a little fete with stalls and other things to do. We had chat with the local vet and sampled some Dalwood Wine – and had an ice cream of course! To be honest if you have young children they are sure to be thrilled with whatever is on offer.
We were able to have a walk across some fields to enjoy the view and take the tractor ride back up again.
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. Many offer tractor or pony rides.
Where To Visit?
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.
These are ones I’ve found near me – I’ve also added in direct links where I have found them:
Furzeleigh Down Farm (dairy farm, cafe and lots more going on this year)
Gatcombe Farm near Seaton (beef cattle)
Dennings Down Farm Smallridge nr Axminster – den and campfire building, tractor rides
Forest Beef near Taunton (beef cattle and farm shop)
Kenniford Farm near Exeter (pig farm and farm shop plus other activities)
West Town Farm (Ide, West of Exeter) mixed farm, tractor rides, cafe.
Washingpool Farm Shop near Bridport – small holding farm plus fun activities on the day.
Frogmary Green Farm South Petherton – digger challenge, craft area, lakes and wildlife.
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, and 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.
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.