Reflections on Open Farm Sunday
What a brilliant day we have had taking part in Open Farm Sunday. Thank you to everyone who came, we really appreciated your visit and your willingness to explore and take pleasure in the beautiful fields, and views.
We were so lucky with the weather, the sun shone all day and there was a gentle breeze, enough to make walking up Sunday Hill a pleasure and to keep the flies away.
It was lovely to spend the whole day celebrating the Sunday Hill Farm. The spontaneous help our neighbours gave us in making the day a success was one of the best things. Angela and Geoffrey Vines worked with us to 'tidy up' and have planned where to cut grass and where to keep the animals, so that visitors would have a nice day. Geoffrey knows more about the land and how to farm here than probably anyone else around, and the Vines's own farm with its lovely fields and hedges has been our inspiration.
Another person who has always encouraged us is Joe Collingborn, who farms at Hill End Farm, Brinkworth. He spent the morning talking to people and giving people a sense of how farming is something to take pleasure in even though he is milking cows at 4 am every morning and battling for economic survival in the face of low milk prices. The Collingborns want to stay milking and their daughter, Ceri, has opened Brinkworth Dairy, as a way to give purpose and more financial security to the business of milking the family pedigree herd.
I hope that during your visit you were able to try some of the local cheese and ice cream from Brinkworth Dairy.
I had the most delicious scoop of rhubarb and custard ice cream; at Brinkworth Dairy even the ice cream flavours are seasonal! Thanks to Kate on an internship to Brinkworth Dairy from Australia, for running the stall all day. One of our businesses, Athelstan Farm Foods, wholesales Brinkworth Dairy cheeses to local pubs and farm shops.
I don't think anyone went hungry! Angela Vines made tea and coffee for everyone all day and she, Izzy Brown, Trina Ryall and I had all made cakes.Guests donated money for their refreshments to Prospect Hospice, I think we raised quite a bit and will post an update when they have counted up. We chose Prospect as so many of us have been touched by the work they do, and we always remember one of our neighbours, the late June Fitzherbert, who worked for Prospect. We were very glad that her son and family all came to visit today, and thanks to Sonali Fitzherbert for buying some of Roger's books, one of Sunday Hill Farm's most important products!
All the farms here are fairly small and so we all benefit from joining together, in land rental and management agreements. As I explained to some people when we walked round, we let some of our fields to immediate neighbours and the land benefits from their knowledgeable farming practices. Geoffrey Vines makes lovely meadow hay and rears calves on the fields he takes, Ian and Trina Ryall take other fields to support their large dairy herd and give their cows some extra lush grass in the summer, and similarly Stephen Portch who has just made his silage. David Lewis knows how to farm the steepest and perhaps 'poorest' fields on Sunday Hill, and currently has sheep grazing them, which seem to be flourishing! They looked a bit hot today and were all using the hedge to shelter from the sun. We are very lucky to have neighbours whose knowledge and hard work helps us maintain things properly.
Everything went so smoothly and naturally and seemed so easy thanks to our lovely visitors. However the success of the day was thanks mainly to the inspiration and hard work of Izzy Brown who has come to work at Sunday Hill Farm to promote it and our work. She took the initiative of registering us to take part and then worked tirelessly on the promotion of the day, culminating in doing an interview on BBC Radio Wiltshire. She also created maps and information sheets so that visitors could understand what we had on offer, and ensure that people had a fulfilling day. Thank you so much Izzy.
Other stars were the animals, and I think many children made good friends with our horses, who all enjoyed the extra fuss and handfuls of hay.
The small herd of cows very much enjoyed looking at our visitors and pushed against each other to lick little hands and get their heads scratched.
We met so many interesting people during the day, including other farmers from Brinkworth and Charlton who helpfully shared their knowledge with us and families who have their own family farms as far away as New Zealand (3,500 acres I think!) and Honduras (where they grow coffee and mangoes . . .). So Open Farm Sunday created some pretty far reaching connections!
The unplanned finale to the day was a drive-by of 150 vintage tractors taking part in the 'Startely Tractor Ride', anyone who has seen Mad Max Fury Road, would not have been disappointed by this varied, colourful, endless, roaring procession and we were thrilled to see a good vehicle extravaganza without all the violence of a Hollywood movie. We recognised quite a few of the people driving their fine machines and there was much horn blowing and arm waiving to finish the day.