Interest in the food we eat continues to rise but, with COVID-19 restrictions, how can you show the public the real story behind food and farming?

We all know that poultry and other food producers need to engage with the public and open days are a good way of doing so but, how do you organize farm visits when COVID-19 lockdowns are in place?

Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) has been organizing LEAF Open Farm Sunday in the U.K. for the last 15 years and coronavirus restrictions are not going to see it stop showcasing the work carried out by farmers. Its program for this year could offer an example for others keen to engage with consumers in these far from normal times.

LEAF is still planning to hold its regular open days across the U.K. in June but, in case movement restrictions are still in place, it is also hosting a series of virtual farm visits.

LEAF took the screen for the first time last year and, for 2021, it has planned Spring and Autumn virtual tours, alongside monthly broadcasts throughout the year.

The time is right

And it would appear that now might be the very time to be organizing this type of consumer engagement.

According to Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday Manager, one of the unexpected positives to emerge from the challenges of lockdown has been in the surge in interest in the countryside, nature and buying fresh produce.

Two LEAF Online Farm Sunday events, in March and September, will each include an afternoon of virtual farm tours on Facebook featuring a range of different farms spanning the U.K. and shining a spotlight on all farming sectors.

In addition, monthly farm visits, broadcast live on Facebook, will feature different farms spanning the country and shining a spotlight on all farming sectors, allowing more people to connect with farming throughout the year.

It is hard to know from one week to the next where restrictions will be in place and where they won’t and, in case restrictions should be lifted in time for the traditional On Farm Sunday, LEAF is urging farmers to start planning now, suggesting that, this year, more farms open their gates to the public, but admit smaller groups to help ensure social distancing, and it is urging farmers to make the best use of outdoor spaces.

Take a look at LEAF’s Facebook page, and if you doubt that the public is really interested in learning about where their food comes from, consider the results of the Innova Consumer Survey 2020. Learning more about where their food comes from was found to be of interest to 85% of global consumers surveyed!