Open Farms

Try before you buy

Open Farms is an impressive initiative enabling farmers to reach out to the public and also potential residential, lifestyle and farming buyers to explore their target region and discover what’s possible. On Sun 21 March, the Open Farms initiative ran its second annual event across New Zealand, attracting thousands of visitors to explore 37 farms across the country. Farms of all types participated – all sorts of food, fibre and research, including mushroom makers and beekeepers.

Benefits for farmers

On the bigger picture, for farmers to reach out to help an urban public understand the requirements and pressures that they’re under goes a long way in re-uniting town and country, and consumers and growers. It’s a face-to-face chance to own the pride and passion that is an essential driver to farming life. On the more daily level, the benefits to farmers were clear. At the highly popular event at the organic Untamed Earth, Leeston, there were easily up to 200 people on site at anytime throughout the five-hour window. The street was backed up with (well managed) car parking. The farm walking tour I enjoyed held the rapt attention of at least 100 people for three quarters of an hour, and Untamed Earth had clearly re-jigged their schedule to build in a third walking tour to meet the high demand. Sure, the lovely weather helped, but it was clear that there was a really large range of people there, with very genuine and heartfelt interests. The vege stall did a roaring trade, as did the pick-your-own tomato boxes or bags, at excellent prices – and also the well-chosen realfruit icecream caravan.

Everyone who attended will now look out for and buy Untamed Earth goods at farmers’ markets and supermarkets, and possibly subscribe to their awesome vege boxes and other deliveries – and they’ll have an enhanced understanding of the work that goes into creating premium, organically-grown produce, well worth paying a little more.

Benefits for buyers and the public

If you’re scoping to buy in a region, what better opportunity to get in-depth and intensely local knowledge. Speak up with any questions, and use your eyes and ears to scope the rest. For members of the public just wanting a fascinating and unusual day out – this is free. It’s preferred that you register in advance, for numbers management, but this is quick and with no ongoing obligations. At the Leeston event, there was a full mix of attendees of all cultures and ages and social groupings. I saw kids literally playing with soil as if they’ve never seen it before. Many visitors had clearly been inspired by lockdown to do more back-to-basics vege gardening, and came armed with lists of burning questions… composting, companion planting, and those damn white butterflies! The political hot potato of nitrate in the water came up and was elegantly dealt with by the knowledgeable and approachable Penny, who talked about the water conditions at their site only, and their frequent testing. Everyone left with new and fascinating organic and vege-growing knowledge willingly imparted by the passionate hosts.

How it works

Open Farms is a grassroots collaboration between farmers and communications people, and the comms people have set up a great framework to enable farmers to get the most of the day.

The Open Farms website streamlines the planning and hosting, providing all the guidance materials, resources, H&S plan templates and signage ideas, while also coordinating the visitor marketing and registration. They also give great crowd-interaction suggestions.

More please!

Autumn is a great time for this event – cue the the picturesque “pick the heaviest pumpkin” competition at Untamed Earth – but this event would succeed in spring as well… baby animal petting zoo, anyone? Or maybe they could do a whole weekend, enabling participants to get around more farms? Keep an eye out for Open Farms on Facebook and in your local media – definitely one to support, for all the right reasons.

www.openfarms.co.nz + https://untamedearth.nz/ Image credit: Untamed Earth

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