Video: Dairy farm near Brackley opens its doors to the public - so we went along to find out more (and milk a cow!)

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The Barnowl Jerseys Farm in Evenley is one of a number of farms participating in the nationwide Open Farm Sunday event on Sunday, June 9. Reporter Jack Ingham visited the farm to see what visitors have in store when they visit.

Barnowl Farm has welcomed families to visit the farm for free and get up close to the animals to learn how dairy farms operate.

The farm is widely recognised for its prized herd of Jersey cattle, which have won countless awards in the show ring over the past 40 years.

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It also has a shop on site that sells the farm’s products, including a butcher's counter and freshly made milk, cream and ice cream that are processed on site.

Andy Reader and Deborah Thomas will hold cow milking demonstrations on Barnowl Farm.Andy Reader and Deborah Thomas will hold cow milking demonstrations on Barnowl Farm.
Andy Reader and Deborah Thomas will hold cow milking demonstrations on Barnowl Farm.

Originally started by Charles Reader with one heifer, the Barnowl farm now manages a herd of around 80 cows as well as keeping rare pigs, chickens and a few ponies.

Charles, who has dedicated much of his life to farming his prize-winning Jersey cows, even took his wife Frances to Jersey on their honeymoon, where he purchased another cow!

Over the years, the Barnowl herd has won the coveted Burke Trophy at the Royal Show five times, which is more times than any other cattle farmer in the country.

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Charles and his son Andy now run the farm and say they joined the Open Farm Sunday initiative not only to give people the chance to get close to their award-winning cows but also to educate youngsters about where their food comes from.

The Barnowl Farm is widely recognised for its award-winning Jersey cows.The Barnowl Farm is widely recognised for its award-winning Jersey cows.
The Barnowl Farm is widely recognised for its award-winning Jersey cows.

Andy said: “We have done Open Farm Sunday eight times now. It is about getting people out on farms so they can actually see what goes on.

"They can walk around a working farm, touch the animals and understand where things come from. We have lost that connection between farm and people and we need to bring it back. That’s why Open Farm Sunday is so important.”

Charles added: “One of the key incentives of doing Open Farm Sunday is to pop the myths of supermarkets and tell the truth of how food is produced.”

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The Open Farm Sunday initiative was started by the sustainable food and farming organisation Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) in 2006.

Alongside the cow-milking demonstrations, visitors will be able to see and touch newborn calves.Alongside the cow-milking demonstrations, visitors will be able to see and touch newborn calves.
Alongside the cow-milking demonstrations, visitors will be able to see and touch newborn calves.

Since then, over 2.7 million people have visited around 1,600 working farms across the UK at the annual event.

A spokesperson for LEAF said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for everyone, young and old, to discover firsthand what it means to be a farmer and the fabulous work they do producing our food, enhancing the countryside and all the goods and services farmers provide.”

On Open Farm Sunday, posters from LEAF will be displayed around the farm detailing facts about dairy farming. There will also be videos to watch and milking demonstrations, as well as numerous selfie opportunities with the camera-friendly cows.

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Deborah Thomas works as a professional milkmaid at the farm and will be taking visitors through the experience of milking.

Barnowl Farm also has rare Oxford Sandy and Black pigs.Barnowl Farm also has rare Oxford Sandy and Black pigs.
Barnowl Farm also has rare Oxford Sandy and Black pigs.

She said: “We will have information and posters up everywhere, we have also made videos with Andy explaining the whys and hows.

"This year we also have QR codes dotted about, which, once scanned, take the visitor to a short video that explains what goes on at the farm. We have made it more interactive so that it is more enjoyable for the kids.

"There will also be an education barn where there will be activities for kids that include learning about soil, vegetables, bugs and worms. It’s an opportunity for kids to get their hands dirty and understand more about where the food they eat comes from.”

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The farm will be running milking demonstrations at 12.30pm and 2.30pm and this year have extended the event to 4:30 pm so people can join them in the milking parlour at 4.15 pm to learn how to milk cows.

Deborah said: “Alongside the milk demonstrations, there will be newborn calves that are so well behaved that people can go and stroke them, brush their hair or cuddle them.

"There will always be one of the team members around to answer questions, and people should not feel embarrassed about asking us.”

The farm also has a well-stocked shop featuring plenty of its own produce.The farm also has a well-stocked shop featuring plenty of its own produce.
The farm also has a well-stocked shop featuring plenty of its own produce.

During my visit, Andy and Deborah were kind enough to give me a tour of the farm similar to what visitors on Open Farm Sunday can expect.

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They demonstrated their great knowledge of dairy farming and their shared passion for the Jersey breed, even allowing me to milk a few of the cows.

The experience was fantastic, and the pair made me feel very comfortable doing something that I was totally unfamiliar with.

Visiting a farm like Barnowl on Open Farm Sunday is not only a great chance to educate the kids about their food but also a valuable opportunity for adults and parents to learn about the dairy industry.

If milking or getting close to cows is not your thing, the farm’s well-stocked shop, where hot food, tea, cake and ice cream will be on sale is worth a visit.

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The farm will be open to the public on Sunday, June 9 from 11am. Much of the farm’s self-guided walk is on concrete, so it is suitable for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs.

The family does recommend that visitors wear suitable footwear as it is a working farm and reminds people that no dogs are allowed on site except guide dogs.

For more information about Barnowl Farm visit the farm’s website at: https://www.barnowlfarmshop.co.uk/

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