Tuesday, April 23, 2024

10,000 visits to Kiwi farms, and counting

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Call for new farmers as Open Farms gears up for March next year.
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Open Farms, New Zealand’s national open farm day, returns on Sunday, March 10 2024. 

Now in its fourth year, the project has helped around 10,000 visitors to experience farm life at more than 100 events.  The nationwide series of open farm events aims to reconnect urban Kiwis with the people and places that grow their food.  

“Good things happen when people get on farm,” founder Daniel Eb said. 

“Farmers feel a renewed sense of pride in what they do and the team’s morale lifts. We’ve even seen direct-to-customer farm businesses scale off the back of an open day. 

“For visitors, it’s a chance to really connect with the source of their food and get the real story on the issues they care about. For the one-in-five of them who have never visited a farm before, it can be life-changing.” 

Open Farms 2024 kicks off with a call for new farmers to sign up to host an open day. 

“For those farmers who have hosted before and farm close to a major urban centre, we’re also providing an operations subsidy to help scale their event. This approached helped the project achieve a record visitor turnout in 2023,” Eb said. 

To host an event with Open Farms, farmers sign up on the website, set and track their visitor numbers and download a handbook covering activity ideas, checklists and more. Open Farms supports farmers to plan their day, manages all visitor marketing and registrations and provides a  box of kit for the day. 

The full range of food and fibre farms are welcome to participate. Past Open Farms events have featured sheep and beef stations, permaculture orchards, dairy farms, honey producers, native restoration projects, urban farms, thoroughbred breeders and more.

“Every year, visitor demand far outstrips capacity. If an event runs within an hour of a major urban centre, it books out in days – sometimes hours,” Eb said. 

Across two post-event research projects (2020 and 2021), visitor feedback is clear – people feel more connected to farmers, view sustainability in farming more positively and better understand the complexities of farming after an open day.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) chief executive Sam McIvor said that creating opportunities for Kiwis to connect with farming and food production has never been more important. 

“People are looking for ways to support sustainable farming and our farmers also want to connect and demonstrate how we grow the nation’s food and manage our environment. Having a platform to connect customers and producers together is critical – that’s why we’ve supported Open Farms since its inception and continue to encourage sheep and beef farmers to get involved.” 

Open Farms is backed by three partners: BLNZ, the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge and the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund.  

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