Farmers are being encouraged to connect with the consumer and build loyalty and support for the British farming industry by hosting an Open Farm Sunday event this year.

The number of farmers already committed is up ten percent on this time last year, with 300 signed up to take part.

The event, running on June 9, aims to give the public a first-hand insight into farming.

The national organisers, Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF), are calling on farmers of every size and every sector to fill the gaps across the country.

Of the 362 farms which hosted a LEAF Open Farm Sunday event last year, 26 percent did so for the first time - the highest number to date. These farms encompassed all types of farm enterprise - arable, livestock and dairy through to horticulture.

LEAF Open Farm Sunday manager Annabel Shackleton said: “We need more farms to respond to the public’s compelling appetite to visit a farm and learn more about where their food comes from and how it is produced.

"It’s the perfect time for farmers to strengthen the connection with their customers when the industry is being challenged by policy changes, dietary trends and, potentially, of cheap foreign imports.”

Jeremy Padfield, arable and beef farmer in Somerset and long-time LOFS host, said: “There’s this huge gulf of understanding between consumers and where their food comes from, and Open Farm Sunday provides the opportunity to try and bridge that gap. "It’s not just about where our food comes from, it’s about the public good, what we do to protect our natural resources and all the environmental work we do.

"All that is embraced on one day a year when everyone gets together and shares it with the consumers.

“We start with the supermarket shelf and the food people buy and talk back through the process. It helps us to tell the story about how we balance food, farming and nature.”

He recalls a conversation he had with one family: “The dad came up to me at the end and said: "this has totally transformed my attitude to British farming, we’re all vegetarian. I had no concept of the work and the ethics of what you do over the hedge." That family have now become one of our best friends and even though Mike is still a vegetarian he even heads up the barbecue at our event on Open Farm Sunday!”

The 2019 principal sponsors of the event are Arla Foods, Asda, BASF plc, Co-op, Defra, Farmers Weekly, Frontier Agriculture, John Deere Limited, LEAF Marque, Marks and Spencer, NFU, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

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