LEAF Open Farm Sundays again

The Living Field has, in past years, hosted many displays and exhibits at the Institute’s open days. Our contributions to LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LOFS) have been greatly appreciated by the local community and wider public.

LOFS at the Living Field was suspended during the pandemic and LOFS generally has been hit hard over the last few years.

But things are on the up. While the Living Field garden remains closed to events, LOFS22 is taking off countrywide with the usual great enthusiasm. Annabel Shackleton and Tabitha Salisbury from LEAF have been writing in recent weeks to keep us all up to date:

“We’ve had a turbulent couple of years, and understandably there has been a feeling of unease about having visitors in close proximity to families, colleagues, and friends on farm during these times. With what we hope is the worst of the pandemic behind us, we’re looking forwards, to spending time outdoors in a more normal world, over the summer ahead of us and watching events, such as LOFS thrive once again.”

LEAF! Pants!

In line with this year’s focus on the health of soil, water, crops, livestock and biodiversity, through to food, people and community, LEAF related (a little earlier in the year) …..

 “We’re calling on farmers to start planting 100% cotton pants (or other 100% cotton items) now to demonstrate to visitors in June the importance of soil management, and the role of microorganisms in maintaining its health.”

“If you’re planting your pants, write #LOFS22 on them, snap a picture and post on twitter, challenging two other farmers to do the same, let’s see how many pants we can get in the ground in the spirit of LOFS! “

So the idea is to dig a hole in soil, place the pants at about 8 inches down, wait for about 60 days, during which the bacteria, fungi and microfauna in the soil will begin feeding off the cotton, and then unearth what’s left of the pants as a talking point at Open Farm Sunday..

A later update from LEAF: “Lots of you have planted your pants and we cannot wait to see the results unveiled on the 12th June! A fantastic way to get visitors understanding more about soil health. “ 

The west garden was a favourite at open events: visitors could take part in experiments, grind corn, view the DundeeAstro’s scopes or just sit on the grass, have a picnic and run about.

Podcasts and Farm Tour Videos 

LEAF writes “Tune in to our latest LOFS podcast – an extra special issue brought to you in partnership with Farmers Guardian. LOFS Manager, Annabel Shackleton and Helen Chappell, North West LOFS Ambassador and manager at Ridgeway Farm, a mixed farm near Blackpool, chat about the history of LOFS, how it has developed since it first started in 2006, and the public and business benefits it brings.”

The podcasts are available on the LEAF web site [3] and via most podcast streaming channels.

And LEAF writes …. “We’ve launched our new series of Virtual Farm Tour videos!! “

“These fun, educational videos are great for all the family, taking them on virtual trips around the UK to different farm enterprises, meeting some incredible farmers and giving them a real immersion into life on the farm.  They are sure to perk people’s interest in farming ahead of LOFS and will form a big part of our online consumer engagement over the next few weeks. “

“Huge thanks to Abi Reader, the Haygrove team and Joe Stanley at the Allerton project for their time and effort in getting these off the ground. You can watch the videos on YouTube [4] – please share and let us know what you think!”

And finally for now ….

“There is heightened interest from the public surrounding farming, food production and the environment, as an industry LEAF Open Farm Sunday offers the chance to allow that curiosity to develop in a positive manner… “

“We’d like to thank you for your energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and continued support. Together let’s showcase British Farming!”

And from an LEAF email of 20 May : With just 3 weeks to go to 12th June, a fantastic 215 farmers are gearing up to open and we couldn’t be more excited! 

And not just the one Sunday …. although the national campaign centres around one weekend, there is huge scope for you to open your gates throughout any weekend in June, should a different date suit you, your farm and team better.

Open Farm Sundays at Dundee combined farm and science. People can climb the stairs to see the controls of a combine harvester and look through lenses and scopes to see the farmland’s colours and shapes at small scales. Here are some photographs of plant surfaces and a spider. All images www.livingfield.co.uk.

Sources | Links

[1] Open Farm Sunday web site – where you can learn more about the event and find a farm to visit: https://farmsunday.org

[2] Plant your pants – find out more at How hungry is your soil?

[3] LOFS Podcasts

[4] YouTube site for LOFS22 Virtual Farm Visits: the original link given does not take you there. Looking for a new one – in the meantime, when in YouTube, try searching for LOFS22 Virtual.

Thanks LEAF from the Living Field for sending so much info over the past few months. Here to LOFS22!! 

Note from the editor: The Living Field garden has not hosted open events for several years. See the Garden page for current status.

A second note from the editor: The experimentalist in me hopes for uniformity of method and analysis in the pant planting exercise. Should the pants be new or worn; and if worn – for years or just once or twice; and if worn should they be washed before planting; and if washed with what detergent … [Just kidding … it’s a fun trial and the results should help people realise that soil is alive and the things that live in it are working every day to decompose, convert and store organic matter, and ensure a soil remains intact, formed and held together by strands, pastes and glues. If a soil is killed, it will be blown or washed away.  That’s why the Living Field got its name.

The Garden at Open Farm Sunday 2017

The Living Field Garden was looking good at Open Farm Sunday on 11 June this year.  Despite wet weather, we had over 1000 visitors.

More on the Open Farm exhibits appears at the Hutton Institute’s LEAF web pages. Here we look at some of this year’s plants.

Water forget-me-not (top left, then clockwise), elder flower, close up of male flower on a maize plant, and wild yellow iris.

The hedges are thick with leaf, the hawthorn now filling its haws, the elder and the wild rose still in full flower. Water forget-me-not and wild iris are flowering in the wet ditch, while field scabious, comfrey  and viper’s bugloss are offering plenty for the several species of bumble bees that live in and around the garden.

The east garden’s perennial and arable beds

The three local species in the images above all reside in their own habitats, but are within a few seconds of hoverfly flight to the exotic maize in the arable plot. Maize originated as a crop in the Americas and was unknown in the country before the last few hundred years.

The east garden (top l, down) across the medicinals bed, the vegetable quarter of the arable, across the meadow, just in flower; (top r, down) the potato patch, wild rose and visitor, bumble be on field scabious, through a gap in the hedge, June 2017

This proximity of the wild and the cultivated is one of the recurring features of the garden. The images above contrast the cropped area of the east garden with the perennial meadow and hedge plants. The  field scabious in the meadow will keep the bees well supplied until late September at least.

Raised beds of the west garden

Through the gate, the west garden’s raised beds are filled this year with vegetables and herbs. There are various cabbages and spinaches, parsley, thyme and dill, companion plantings and intercrops, to name a few, and all are intended to show the very different concentrations of minerals that these plants take from the soil and accumulate in their tops.

Herbs and vegetables (top l down) parsley, across the raised beds to the polytunnel, cabbage; and (top r down) dill umbel unfolding, pea flower and chard leaf, June 2017

The background and results of this study, which is based on research at the Institute, will be covered in a future Living Field post.

Creepy towers

We’ve been constructing various small places for insects and spiders since the garden began, but this year, the idea of a more permanent residents block was made real just before Open Farm Sunday. First stack your pallets, add a roof of turf and fill the spaces with small bespoke homes for our creepy friends.


Old logs and fence posts, with holes drilled in the ends, pine cones, garden canes, bricks with holes through, tubes, sticks, bits of rotting wood – all make ideal residences.

Exhibits at Open Farm Sunday 11 June 2017

The garden made a return this year as the base for many activities at Open Farm. The cabins hosted exhibits on greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen fixing legumes. The east garden, as you go in through the gate by the cabins, had a soil pit, cereal-legume intercropping, pest traps and the urban bug house shown above, while the west section displayed heathy vegetables, soil bacteria, our friends from Dundee Astronomical Society and Tina Scopa running a workshop on wild plant ‘pressing’.

The garden was maintained by the usual crew: Gladys Wright and Jackie Thompson on the arable plots and raised beds; Paul Heffel from the farm kept the hedges in trim and cultivated the soil where required; Geoff Squire arranged the medicinals and dyes and kept an eye on various rarities and curiosities.

Gill and Lauren Banks, with help from the farm, constructed Creepy Towers, for which the ‘chimney’ was crafted by Dave Roberts and the plaque by visiting student Camille Rousset.

There is no formal funding for maintaining the garden – it happens through commitment and hard work, often out of hours.

Contact for the garden: gladys.wright@hutton.ac.uk