Farm Open Days

One of the most rewarding events on the WCAS calendar is our Farm Open Days which take place every two years.  Schools across Cumbria and North Lancashire are invited to attend, whilst over 100 volunteers and demonstrators give their time to help make the Farm Open Day a truly memorable day of discovery for the children.  With its beginnings in 2007, the Farm Open Day initiative aims to help youngsters explore the link between farming and the food that reaches their plate, whilst learning about the importance of agriculture and sustainable farming and food production.

Various stations are set up around the farm, with a mix of more traditional farming methods that are widely used; sheep shearing, sheep dog handling, poultry keeping skills as well as promoting the use of technology in farming by incorporating a veterinary lambing simulator, along with an automated sheep run and weigh cell.  The children discover how dairy cows are milked, how the milk is processed and bottled, and have a go at milking ‘Clover’ our wooden dairy cow.  Amongst all this of course, there’s a chance to get up close with the animals, holding day old chicks, feeding calves and meeting sheep and lambs.

WCAS understands that the future of farming lies with future generations, and with this in mind, the aim of the Farm Open Days is to inspire and educate these future generations to the agricultural landscape around them.

Farm Open Days 2017

More than 1600 primary school children experienced the sights, smells and sounds of a working farm last week, when the gates of Heaves Farm, Levens were opened to 40 primary schools from South Cumbria and North Lancashire on Tuesday 13 and Thursday 15th June.  Organisers of the event, Westmorland County Agricultural Society worked closely with farm owners Roger, Carole and Gary Mason to deliver two fantastic days of discovery and learning for the students.  This interactive event encouraged children to think about the origins of their food and how it is produced, whilst enjoying a great day on the working farm.

With 30 bases located around the farm, students and teachers could get involved in many aspects of agriculture, including sheep shearing, milking, butchery, poultry and planting vegetables.  Westmorland County Agricultural Society Chief Executive Christine Knipe said “We didn’t shy away from the sometimes gritty reality of farming and the children always enjoy getting hands-on with the activities.” 

The biennial Farm Open Day, now in its 26th year and eighth time at the Mason family’s farm saw a record 1620 students come onto farm.  The event relies on more than 120 volunteers each day, who give up their time to talk to enthusiastic youngsters about the journey their food makes from farm to fork.  Local MP Tim Farron took time to thank all the volunteers and commented “Farming is key to our area – our traditions, our economy, our landscape and our food. Yet even in a rural area like ours, it can seem a long way away for many young people. These Farm Open Days are vital in helping pupils to understand our area and where their food comes from; they have been given a fantastic insight into the world of farming.”

As well as traditional methods of farming, the students were introduced to lambing simulators and smart cow collars that assist with the welfare and management of dairy cows.  Children were also ‘turned into sheep’ and were identified with electronic tags, then shepherded through a handling race, which proved a favourite amongst students, with many amazed at the increased use of technology in farming.  Christine explained “We wanted to give the children an insight into the breadth of opportunities in farming, and inspire them to perhaps consider a career in agriculture in the future.” 

The event was supported by Muller Dairies, who supplied every student with a carton of milk, as well as backing from The North West Farmers Trust and Genus.  Back in school, teachers were provided with farming-themed resources to help them bring the countryside into the classroom and continue to explore what they had learnt at Heaves Farm.  With interest from local primary schools already gathering pace for the next Farm Open Day, it’s safe to say that the event proves ever more popular with students and teachers alike.