A lack of confidence in dealing with the public in numbers, fear of opening themselves up to activists and taking on burdensome red tape were just some of the factors holding farmers back from taking part in events such as Leaf’s Open Farm Sunday, writes Rob Yorke.
The responses were collated as part of a Twitter poll which asked ‘What would encourage you to open up your farm or land?’
Forty two per cent of respondents said financial support would help change their mind.
Geraint Davies of Gwynedd said: "For farmers to open their gates, the Government has to help fund it, [perhaps as a public good?] with affordable specialist insurance made easily accessible to farmers.”
Richard Tomlinson, an arable farmer in Cheshire, said: “I enjoy showing a group of people around, but would be out of my depth with Open Farm Sunday.”
One farmer wanted to open but did not have the car parking space or the stewards to assist.
A conservation organisation said: “We could not run the event as we do without our volunteers!
"Hats off to every farmer who runs an event without a small army of staff and volunteers willing to help on the day.”
Some were overwhelmed by the commitment, labour, health and safety obligations – including costs of toilets and handwashing – and not knowing how many people would turn up.
“We are in an ideal place, close to Wolverhampton, perhaps that is what I fear as it could be very popular. I voted for help with stewarding,” said one farmer, whereas others had an overriding sense of suspicion over and above biosecurity issues on not wanting to a fall guy for the wider industry.
One farmer added: “Would you want an animal rights activist turning up at your farm?”
Yorkshire farmer Paul Temple said farmers should be more confident in what they have to offer.
Mr Temple said: "Openness is the key to this.
“Farmers, especially within a collaborative, can build confidence to feel empowered to be able to open both their farm and their dialogue to get closer to society’s needs.”
Phil Jarvis, head of farming at The Allerton Project added: "Farmers are custodians of the countryside and open days can provide a two-way flow of information with the public who, more importantly, are our customers.”
Leaf chief executive Caroline Drummond said the organisation was working to address farmers’ concerns and had already introduced a free ticketing service which enables them to manage numbers.
Ms Drummond said: "Whilst we appreciate OFS is not for everyone, the industry has a great story to tell and we need to be proud and confident of the quality and stewardship delivered by farmers in producing our food and looking after nature."
Jane Craigie, who provides marketing for Leaf’s Open Farm Sunday, added: "We see the poll results as really positive, because with the shift to increased support for public goods, open farms could be in the payments’ structure within our domestic agriculture policy framework.
"We think farmers open up for a number of reasons – their passion, or sense of duty, to tell the farming story, to sell their business in some way or to engage on building bridges over dialogue."
The Twitter poll asked what would help farmers choose to take part. 164 people responded
12% Neighbours also open
20% Help re biosecurity issue
26% Volunteer stewards
42% Government payment