Creeting St Mary: Dairy farmer on his involvement in Open Farm Sunday

OPEN Farm Sunday had always been one of those events other farmers do. The lead-up, press coverage, and excitement would pass us by- someone else would always benefit. There was always the excuse. Wrong location, Harvest, No time, Cow Calving....

All was to change in 2009. We moved to Whitegate Farm on the Friday after the Suffolk Show, which gave us a whole 10 days before the Open Day. It sounds a bit mad, but there were positives- a clean tidy farm, newly painted milking parlour and clean cow sheds.

The toilets were booked, and the parcel from LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) arrived with the road signs, booklets and banners. The Saturday before was interesting to say the least. I fell off a roof in the mad dashing about and still have the scars, the dog ran off, and we were still welding the dairy doors on at 11.30pm. The plan was to have a BBQ for all our helpers. No such luck. Always something to do.

Dawn arrived. Cows milked. Lilly our show cow went sick, good job we have a vet on site...

By 10.30am friends and family turned up, as had the dark clouds, very dark clouds. By 11.00am when we opened the farm gate, our newly washed yards turned into a sea of mud.

The funny thing was, no-one minded. In fact, I think they wanted to come to a farm and see mud, and be able to get dirty.

Tours of the farm were amazing - people were so interested to see how we did things, and were taught something new, all for free.

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We had just short of 600 people that day.

Building on the success of previous years, our event this year plans to be the best yet.

Parking in the front field, with easy access to the A140, a tractor and trailer will take visitors down to the farm. You can walk if you wish, taking in the wild flowers and bird sounds. A limited amount of disabled parking will be available on the farm also.

On reaching the farm, another tractor and trailer will be waiting for anyone wanting a tour of the farm, taking in the youngstock, milking cows and pigs.

On the hour, we will do a guided walk around the farm, taking in the fields, dairy buildings, milking parlour and looking into the cheeseroom.

Our calves are housed in hutches, and we have an expert calf rearer coming, which will answer any questions visitors may have.

Chickens and their coops will be coming, along with the owners, talking about the hens, and what they do.

Fat lambs are in the childrens’ activity barn, along with the feed me now goats, so grab a brew and take in the day..

In our grain store, we plan to have some stall holders selling local crafts - it is Fathers’ Day after all. Teas and coffee, cold drinks and ice creams made from our own Guernsey cows’ milk will be here. Anyone who came last year will remember the cakes. Unbelievable. Enough said.

Hungry? Our own hog roast and burgers from the farm, freshly cooked. Down to the farm shop, local pates, fresh beef and pork, and of course the cheeses. Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue and Suffolk Brie all for tasting and purchasing if you want to.

The static machinery display has been moved to a field on it own this year. Patrick and Brian Barker have pulled out all the stops, and have asked some local farmers if they would like to be involved. The end result will be amazing.

At 4pm the cows are milked. Help get the cows in, and see how we do the milking.

So why do we do it?

Simply to raise the profile of British Farming, and to show visitors where their food comes from.

Yes, it costs us, but in return we can raise the profile of our farm and our products. We have been asked if people could donate to the running of the day, and this year we will have a few buckets if visitors feel they would like to contribute.

No excuses now. We love doing the day, come sun or rain, our farm gate will be open on June 17, 11am to 5pm