Clambering on hay bales and nibbling strawberries fresh from the field may sound like a scene from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five, but it’s actually Open Farm Sunday.
'You can use the wonky ones as a boomerang'
This is when farmers across the UK welcome families through their gates, so kids can enjoy a taste of country life. Good Living joined in the fun at Green End Farm in Yorkshire, where Simon Dobson, 57, has been growing fruit and veg for Asda for 30 years.
'We open the farm to show there’s a story behind every bit of produce you buy in the supermarket,' he explains. 'There are people working a lot of hours, with a lot of passion to produce the fresh, tasty vegetables we eat.'
As a boy, farming was part of Simon’s everyday life, but he feels the younger generation know far less about where food comes from. 'A lot of our holidays were spent on farms, picking potatoes or whatever. Now because of health and safety, and mechanisation, the young don’t do that. The connection has been lost.'
Simon believes seeing the produce growing in the 3,400-acre plot helps children understand the journey from his fields to their plates, and the kids can’t wait to find out.
Among the farm’s young visitors are brothers Alfie, five, and Harry, two, from Leeds, who have fun following two giant Shire horses as they drag a huge iron plough over a strip of field.
‘With a good horseman, you could plough an acre a day like this,’ Simon explains to them. ‘But the tractor we have now is steered by satellite, so it’s closer to 40 acres.’
Alfie is impressed. ‘We learnt that a plough was how they got vegetables from the fields in the old days,’ he says.
Meanwhile Joshuah, six, from Batley, is intrigued to discover how his favourite vegetables end up in the supermarket aisle. ‘I know cucumbers come from the shop, but they get them from a farm, where they grow out of the ground,’ he tells us.
As the day goes on, the children engage more with the produce around them, including planting cress, which 12-year-old Amelia decides is ‘cool because it goes from being a tiny little seed to a big plant that you can eat!’ And there’s another reason she loves Open Farm Sunday. ‘I’m a vegetarian, so it’s interesting to see where they grow everything, and the animals.’
The children also get excited about choosing their favourite things. Seb, six, from Dewsbury, picks tomatoes which, he says, he grows at home with mum Emma. ‘I like the taste a lot!’
Ivy, four, from Wakefield, grins as she picks a mis-shaped cucumber. ‘You can use the wonky ones as a boomerang!’ she laughs. ‘I’ve learned today that we should be kind to the animals we eat,’ says Lily Mae, 10. ‘And that it’s nice to get your vegetables from a farmer that lives near you. Also, you can put cucumber on eyes to cool them!’
All this chatter and excitement is music to farmer Simon’s ears, as he believes educating children about food is key. Although on Open Farm Sunday, the emphasis is on fun, too. ‘They have such
an enjoyable experience,’ he says. ‘And for me, that is just fantastic!’
Visit farmsunday.org for info. Next year’s Open Farm Sunday is on 10 June 2018.