New record number of Open Farms visitors in 2024

// Industry

The 2024 Open Farms day achieved a record-breaking visitor turnout, with around 4,100 people visiting farms across New Zealand last week.

image of open farm day 2024

Of the 25 host farms across the country, more than a quarter were related to sheep and beef operations. 

40% of visitors said that they haven’t visited a farm in three or more years and 18% said they have never visited a farm before. In-line with previous event feedback, visitors rated their day at 4.5/5 and 95% are keen to visit again next year.  

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has funded the initiative since inception. B+LNZ CEO Sam McIvor says the record attendance reflects a growing desire for people to understand where their food comes from. 

“It’s fantastic to see people who haven’t been on farm before get a taste of what it’s like, hearing directly from farmers about the nuances of farming in New Zealand. 

“My thanks to all of those farmers that opened up their farms – you’ve made a significant contribution to growing New Zealanders knowledge and confidence in our sector.” 

Sally and Nathan Newall, first-time hosts at Braeburn Farm in Napier, shared their positive experience. 

“We loved being able to share our animals with everyone and having the opportunity to show our visitors how we care for the environment and enhance biodiversity on our farm. It was great to see some kids planting native trees, learning about the benefits of wool and being able to ask questions about everything we do as farmers and caretakers of the land. 

“We have made new contacts as a result of hosting our open day and now have plans for more community planting days and possibly opening up our farm for school visits and farm tours. 

“Although it was quite a lot of work for us to get the farm tidied up and animals ready, we were supported really well by Dan and Britt from Open Farms and thoroughly enjoyed the experience,” adds Sally. 

The largest event took place at Mangaroa, a sheep, beef, and horticulture farm near Wellington, boasting an impressive turnout of 737 attendees. Jules Matthews at Mangaroa says it was a tremendous success. 

“We had lots of interaction with engaged folks, awesome food from the farm and many points of interest from farm machinery, livestock, felting, shearing demonstrations, weighing stock and sheep dogs.  

“The market garden tour was a hit, we had fresh honey and milk to sample, offered coffee and a visit to the farm store. Topping all that was live music and some awesome games for the kids from constructing vegetable people/animals to tearing apart a round straw bale to find those lollipops! 

“It was such a pleasure sharing what we are passionate about and having the opportunity to educate people about how food is produced and what is important to us as farmers. It felt good going to bed knowing you made an enormous difference in a lot of peoples' day by opening your gates and hearts. 

“As a business that sells food directly to consumers, it’s also great for us to get customer exposure. 

Jules recommends hosting an event. She says, “If you’re thinking of hosting an event – do it. We now live in a society where many people are very removed from any sort of rural experience and the industry that sustains their lives. As a farmer, if we want today's consumers and our future consumers to understand how their food and fibre is grown so we can have meaningful and relevant dialogue about our industry, then we must become educators.” 

The record visitor turnout comes amidst a tough year for farmer hosts says founder Daniel Eb. “Despite missing several of our regular hosts in areas impacted by severe weather in 2023, it was great to support new and returning hosts alike. As always, the feedback from everyday urban New Zealanders was great – people genuinely appreciate the chance to touch, feel and taste their way back into farming.”  

Learn more about Open Farms here

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