Open Farm Weekend (OFW) took place from 16th to 8th of June 2023. The weekend was a huge success with over 13,461 visitors attending the 21 open farms. Members of the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) actively participated throughout the weekend. Volunteers from Bleary YFC, Crumlin YFC, Holestone YFC, Lisnamurrican YFC, and Killinchy YFC were engaged in various activities during OFW.
The mission of Open Farm Weekend centers around reconnecting the public with the source of their food and enabling them to meet the farmers and processors who produce it.
Emma McAnea from Killinchy YFC described how busy their members were while assisting with a range of activities at Millbank Farm, which received 3,500 visitors over the weekend. Emma said, "Our members had a fantastic time during OFW and were kept busy welcoming visitors at the entrance. They also assisted children with ride-on play equipment, looked after chalk drawing, did face painting, supervised the handling of chicks, and one member even drove the tractor for the tractor rides. It was a great weekend, and we were encouraged to see so many members of the public visiting Northern Irish farms."
Open Farm Weekend aims to help the public, especially those from non-farming backgrounds, gain a better understanding of how our food is produced and raise awareness of the importance of the local supply chain. The initiative hopes to educate the public about the local farming community, which is responsible for producing the food we all enjoy.
Laura Murray from Crumlin YFC said, "The weekend was a great opportunity to meet potential members. By participating in the event, we were able to promote Crumlin YFC, our upcoming events, and our first night back. Our members had the chance to speak to prospective members and share their firsthand experiences of being in the club and what we do."
Amy Ritchie from Bleary YFC stated, "Ballinteggart House Apple Farm in County Armagh was very accommodating, providing food and drink for the members who volunteered over the weekend. They appreciated the support from the club. Bleary YFC benefited by establishing another connection within our community while promoting the club through wearing club clothing and distributing information about our summer events and first night back."
YFCU members thoroughly enjoyed Open Farm Weekend as they connected with the community and potential members. The members are already looking forward to participating again next year!