Guest Blog - Using Open Farm Sunday to tell farming’s story

Telling farming’s story and opening your farmgate to the public could help address the employment crisis in the sector according to Highland farmer John Scott.

As Fearn Farm at Tain prepares to take part in Open Farm Sunday on 12 June, John writes:

Agriculture is facing an employment crisis, and yet I can’t help wondering if the sector is too reliant on others to resolve it, rather than doing something direct.

At Fearn Farm, we have a strong team of young and experienced people, spanning many generations. We value their skills, ideas and enthusiasm, and see them very much helping shape the future of our business, not just working in it.  We pay fairly, provide accommodation, encourage training and mentoring and support them to participate in competitions and writing features to raise their own profile. In fact, just a few months ago, our Farm Administrator, Emily Mosley won the AgriScot Business Skills competition and a cash prize of £1000.

So, I am starting to wonder why we currently have vacancies that we are struggling to fill, and after speaking to some fellow farmers, I am realising I am not the only one. Businesses across the UK are finding it difficult to recruit new staff, despite offering an exciting package and career development prospects.

Many of our agricultural bodies and media have run very successful campaigns promoting the wide range of careers available, and that you don’t need to be from a farming background to enjoy the sector. But we are speaking in our own echo chamber, targeting the same people that are already working or living in farming.

We need to talk more outside of the sector, and we need to start doing it ourselves which also means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. Initiatives such as school visits and welcoming organised groups to the farm are excellent, and certainly should be encouraged, but if we want to change the perception and attract new blood, we need to encourage children and their parents to visit our farms, together. They need to see and hear what happens on-farm, ask their questions and fundamentally go away inspired, and as excited as we are by our industry, knowing that their parents will then be continuing those conversations with them at home.

After opening our holiday cottage diversification business, I have recently realised how varied the perception is about farming, and that we must be bold to change this. We need to work together, and we need to be more open and transparent. Events such as Open Farm Sunday, where there is really good practical support from the initiative organisers LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), have got to be the future way we inspire our new workforce. If just one child from every farm opening this year across Britain takes up a career in agriculture in 10 years’ time, that is hundreds of new recruits.

We will be hosting LEAF Open Farm Sunday this year because it helps us to share our story with confidence and reminds us why we do what we do. LEAF makes it easy with free materials to share with visitors, guidance on how to run the event and the flexibility to run it in a way we feel comfortable with, and for, the number of visitors we want to welcome.

We must do more; we can’t rely on others to tell our farming story and we need to do it together.

John Scott, Fearn Farm, Tain

  • LEAF Open Farm Sunday is on Sunday 12th June 2022 but participation the week before or after, weekend or mid-week are also welcome. For farmers interested in taking part, download the Information Pack from the website
  • The website also has case studies and tips for hosting a successful open farm day. Register your event online at to access the free support and resources from LEAF.

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