NFAN 2012 conference marks progressive and successful year

Annual event looks at key areas impacting on UK farm parks

(PresseBox) ( Northamptonshire, )
THE annual conference and trade show of the National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN) was held at Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire on February 7th. and 8th., the event enjoying strong support from both operator and trade members from throughout the UK.

With the theme 'Moving forward,' this year's event was extended by a day to encompass two farm park visits, one to White Post Farm, in Nottingham, and another to Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre in Peterborough.

The second, main conference day, offered a programme covering several key areas of operation and legislation relating to farm park attractions. Proceedings commenced with an introduction from NFAN Chairman Matt Heast who welcomed all those in attendance before introducing the keynote speaker, Adam Henson, owner of the Cotswold Farm Park and a regular presenter on BBC TV's Countryfile and a co-presenter on Lambing Live.

In an enthusiastic and uplifting presentation, Adam provided his audience with an insight into the history and development of Cotswold Farm Park, as well as a look at the farm business from which it came. He revealed how he got involved in presenting on Countryfile and Lambing Live and went on to discuss the importance of branding at venues and how Cotswold Farm Park is now branded as Adam Henson's Cotswold Farm Park, to make the most of his TV exposure.

He picked up on a number of areas of operation he felt were key so success, such as all managers 'singing from the same hymn sheet,' working to a business plan going forward and the importance of being totally professional in every area. Outlining some of his park's attractions and facilities, he noted the high expectations of today's customers and the fact that they don't just want to look at things but want to be entertained too.

Adam went on to reveal some of his park's more recently added activities and facilities, all of which add to the bottom line, and talked about the huge success of a Food and Farming Festival held at Cotswold Farm Park in 2011. He also noted how they were always looking to expand the brand with new ideas such as brewing the park's own beer and creating a range of animal food supplements.

Adam Henson's keynote presentation was followed by a debate and question time session, with various questions being put to a panel chaired by NFAN President John Oliver. Participants included Adam Henson, Tim Rollings from Fishers Farm Park, David Taylor of Taylor Design and Play and Paul Sharpe from Kids Play. Questions and discussions covered subjects including new and 'different' income streams, whether or not the farm attractions industry has reached saturation point in relation to the number of venues and how new entrants can differentiate themselves, the industry code of practice, and what should happen to those operators who don't follow best practice.

Further sessions during the morning included Three ways to ensure your team delivers memorable service all of the time, with Jonathan Winchester from Shopper Anonymous, and Maximise your catering opportunities, with Ian Russell from Wroxham Barns.

The afternoon of the conference began with an update on the industry Code of Practice with David Coackley form the Health and Safety Executive, followed by a session on Collecting membership income by direct debit - is it for you? with Andrew Wolfe from Willows Farm Village and David Blower from Hatton Country World.

The NFAN Farm Attraction of the Year Awards 2011 were then presented, with Willows Farm Village in Hertfordshire triumphing in Category A (venues hosting 75,000 or more visitors) and Marsh Farm in Essex winning in Category B (venues hosting between 20,000 and 75,000 visitors). (N.B. A full list of winners is attached to this press release).

This year's conference was again held in conjunction with a trade exhibition which hosted approximately 40 companies promoting a variety of products and services, from children's play structures and costume characters to retail goods and insurance services. And by all accounts it was a very worthwhile occasion for those involved.

"After installing products at three farm attractions this year we were pleased to see the conference growing further and also to see the sector generally doing well and expanding," noted Phil Pickersgill, MD at Innovative Leisure.

"2012 is the first time mascot manufacturer Rainbow Productions has exhibited at the NFAN event; early indications suggest it was a worthwhile investment," commented Rainbow's Helen Ede. "As well as meeting existing clients, many new contacts were keen to find out more about the benefits of booking appearances by characters such as Peppa Pig."

The event was also supported by a number of sponsors, including Davies & Co. Chartered Surveyors, Marsh & Company Insurance Brokers, S. Gregory, the Farmers Guardian and Agility Marketing.

National Farm Attractions Network

Farm Attraction of the Year Awards 2011

Category A - venues hosting 75,000 or more visitors
Winner: Willows Farm Village, Hertfordshire
Joint runner-up: Fishers Adventure Farm Park, West Sussex
Rand Farm Park, Lincolnshire

Category B - venues hosting between 20,000 and 75,000 visitors
Winner: Marsh Farm, Essex
First runner-up: Park Hall, the countryside experience, Shropshire
Second runner-up: Blackberry Farm, East Sussex
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