Open Farm Sunday is a fantastic project that has seen hundreds of farmers across the UK opening their farm for one Sunday each year since 2006. It’s a good opportunity for everyone, young and old, to visit a working farm to discover at first hand what it means to be a farmer and we’ve supported this wonderful event since the start, either by hosting on our farm or helping our neighbours.
Yesterday, we went to Cressing Lodge Farm to help Nick and Bridie Cousins and while Bill fielded questions about different crops, I was on bread making duties with our farming neighbour James. The idea is that children mill wheat in a large handmill and we bake bread with the resulting flour. However, once children start turning the handle on the mill, they can get a bit obsessed and at times there was rather a surplus of flour, especially as our dough took ages to prove in our cold “kitchen” in an open shed. Luckily, in true Blue Peter style, James and I had both taken some pre-prepared dough so at least we were able to get baking reasonably early.
We produced black bread (basically wholemeal with treacle), sourdough, wholemeal, huffers, scones, dough cake and green soda bread. Surprisingly, taste tests by visitors of all ages decreed the green bread made using nettles, garlic mustard and cheese to be the most popular and it certainly drew the largest crowd of spectators when they heard we were cooking with stinging nettles.
There’s often some debate about what “attractions” to provide on Open Farm Sunday. There was a Treasure Trail for children, machinery on display, trailer rides through the fields with an agronomist and refreshments on offer. Of course children want to see animals and here in Essex where arable farming dominates, farm animals are in short supply. So, should the arable farmer bring in livestock for Open Farm Sunday or should we say that we don’t have animals, so there are none. I suppose we have to decide if we are telling the story of British farming or simply of our farm.
Next year it will be our turn to host Open Farm Sunday again and we’re already writing down ideas for what to do. Any suggestions?