Last year’s event saw 3500 people visit 45 farms across the country – ranging from high-country sheep stations to permaculture orchards, dairy farms and even an indoor microgreens producer in central Wellington.
Farmers can register on Open Farms’ website if they wish to host an open day. Visitor registrations will open in late January.
Project founder Daniel Eb says they built Open Farms so that every Kiwi could have access to a genuine on-farm experience.
“To get there, we’ve streamlined hosting for farmers – all the guides and resources are in one place, and Open Farms will manage all visitor marketing and registration,” he said.
For most urban people, their relationship with food was a relationship with the supermarket and it was taken for granted that there would always be food there.
The covid-19 pandemic and the rationing of some food supplies was a reminder of that relationship.
He says Open Farms was something that could help people re-evaluate that relationship.
The covid-19 lockdown also saw a slowdown, ‘back to basics’ idea emerge where people wanted to reconnect with their food source.
He says Open Farms let people experience some of the magic places found on New Zealand farms.
Eb believes the event is well set up to handle any covid-19 issues.
By design it was structured to run at a Level 2 environment with automatic track and tracing of all visitors, and the ability to scale farm visits down when required.
“We’re pretty flexible, but if it gets higher than Level 3 or 4, we might have to postpone. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.
Registrations had just opened and he expected many of last year’s farmer hosts to sign up again. Those registrations will close mid-February.
“The hosts rated their day really nicely and most indicated they wanted to do it again,” he said.
Feedback from hosts and visitors was overwhelmingly positive from last year’s event.
Three-quarters of events were fully booked and 91% of visitors intend to visit a farm again.
He says the research showed that getting on-farm changes how we view our role in the food system.
“Seventy-two percent of visitors left a farm wanting to buy food direct from a farmer and 64% were more willing to pay a premium for sustainably grown food. This is the right trajectory for citizens, farmers and our environment,” he said.
Farmers can post an Open Farms event, set and track their visitor numbers and download a host handbook covering health and safety, activity ideas, checklists and more via the website.
Events on the day differ by farm, but can include anything from farm walks to animal displays, conservation tours, compost-making, fruit picking and more.
“There’s nothing stopping any farmer from doing it,” Eb said.
North Auckland sheep and beef farmer Nicky Berger is one host looking forward to hosting an open day and helping Kiwis connect with their food.
“We take a lot of pride in producing nutritious food for our urban cousins and caring for the land,” she said.
“It’s a passion worth sharing and we’re really excited to open the family farm come February 21.”