Article by Toby Emes: Essex's original farm park is celebrating 35 years in business by sharing its food and farming story.
Barleylands, in Billericay, which opened to the public in 1984, currently clocks up 800,000 visitors a year.
Since opening, the business, owned by the Philpot family, has expanded to include venue and showground hire, horse livery, and camping. Alongside expansion, Barleylands is keen to retain its core values of bridging the gap between farming and the public.
The farm park is home to an array of farm animals, as well as a reptile centre and birds of prey. The discovery centre tells the story of farming over the years through educational displays and the vintage machinery which can be found in the centre.
Education is a vital part of Barleylands, with the park working with 17,000 children a year.
Karen Watson, head of education at Barleylands, said:
“We tailor-make days to support different subjects in the curriculum from maths to history, literacy and science up to Key Stage 3. We love to be creative and enjoy the challenge of bringing food and farming into any topic, which has brought schools back year after year. The growth of education is full credit to the team who make it such an immersive and interesting learning experience for children of different ages.”
Chris Philpot, the owner of Barleylands, added:
“We are so proud to have been sharing the story of agriculture and food production with school children and families for so many years. With urbanisation and the rise of the supermarkets, children are increasingly removed from farming and where their food comes from. At Barleylands we can give them an interactive connection with this through the farm animals, cooking and the history of farming through the ages. The farm park started when I was the same age as many of our visitors. My father opened to the public with a few pieces of vintage machinery from the farm; I have seen how it has developed and thrived. None of it would have been possible without the loyal staff who have dedicated themselves to delivering a great experience to those who visit us.”
Peter Hockley, a director at the farm park, told the Echo of how he loves working at Barleylands:
“It’s such a family-orientated business; there’s such a great atmosphere. The owner’s get involved with day-to-day life; you sometimes see them on combine harvesters around the farm. There’s so much more space outside for kids to enjoy. The farm and the museum have expanded ten-fold. Technology has benefitted us massively, it makes the whole operation more efficient. Staff here join and then stay for life; the secretary has been here for 19 years; I’ve been here for ten. Chris rewards people for hard work and there are plenty of opportunities; ideas are taken on board and implemented almost immediately. There’s exciting plans for us over the summer - we’ve got some new areas coming to the farm. I can’t reveal too much but it’s going to be great.”
Article by Toby Emes, The Echo