Annual Open Farm Weekend virtual event shows public appetite to connect with farms

Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend which took place last weekend had an online reach of more than 175,000 across the three days of the event and a total online reach of almost 500,000 since the event launched in April of this year.

David Brown, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union with Susan Bate, membership & club development officer for the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster with Annaclone & Magherally YFC pictured on Blackberry Hill Farm
David Brown, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union with Susan Bate, membership & club development officer for the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster with Annaclone & Magherally YFC pictured on Blackberry Hill Farm

The event, run by the Ulster Farmers’ Union and with the support of Bank of Ireland, Asda, Moy Park, NFU Mutual, Irish Farmers’ Journal and the Livestock and Meat Commission, saw almost 30 farms participate in one of Northern Ireland’s biggest awareness initiatives to reconnect consumers with farms and farm producers, as well as showcasing the excellent work farmers do in caring for their local environment.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, visitors could not physically attend farms this year, but instead the farms came directly to the public through Facebook Live streaming and pre-recorded videos shown across Open Farm Weekend’s social media channels. The three days of live activities took place on Blackberry Hill Farm, Gilford, Briarfield Farm – home to Glenarm Redspark Lamb, Glenarm and Millbank Farm, Killinchy.

All 29 participating farms also had a video showcase created for each of them, that captured glimpses of their daily lives on the farm, all of which are still available to view through the Open Farm Weekend website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Eamonn Matthews and Grainne McGarvey on Briarfield Farm – home to Glenarm Redspark Lamb

David Brown, Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend chairman and deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union said: “This is the second year we have gone virtual, and the online figures are extremely positive considering we have been spending less time in our houses compared to last year when we ran the first virtual event. We know that the public and indeed our own farm hosts like the virtual aspect of the Open Farm Weekend as it gives them an opportunity to engage with and enjoy farms, they mightn’t have visited in past Open Farm Weekends. We hope after learning about what makes each farm special, viewers now feel inspired to visit them again in the future when restrictions allow.

“On behalf of the whole Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend team, I want to pass on my thanks to the farms that took on this challenge so passionately, our title sponsor Bank of Ireland, and additional sponsors, Moy Park, Asda, LMC, NFU Mutual and the Irish Farmers’ Journal who provided financial support and of course the public for engaging so enthusiastically online, we hope to see you all again in person in 2022!”

Emily McGowan from Millbank Farm, Open Farm Weekend project manager Wendy Gallagher with LMC demonstrator Arlene Thompson