Making a moove to host events? Ewe must be kidding!

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Logo: Downlands Partnership

By Sean Grufferty, Senior Grazing Officer

Men in a field petting and feeding a small herd of long horned goats
When is meeting a goat not the best way to end a task day? (Downlands Partnership)

Having chosen a career where most of my time is spent with livestock, I couldn’t have imagined that running events could become such an enjoyable part of the job. The atmosphere, learning new skills (sometimes only a few days ahead of those attending), connecting with the wider community and the beaming smiles at the end of the day. Hosting events can bring a different sense of impact and satisfaction at work.

Having managed small groups and volunteers for many years, scaling up for larger events seemed like a natural progression. Building a network and publicising an event, usually involves social media and local groups you may already be in contact with. Eventbrite is our favourite website for reaching a wider audience, plus it gives you the option to set time slots and limit attendee numbers. Invaluable for helping events run smoothly.

Open Farm Sunday is a yearly fixture when anyone can come to our conservation grazing farm. It is our most family orientated day of the year and we always get a decent turnout. Organising parking spaces has become a military operation, with the volunteers sporting their high-vis uniforms. Teas and coffees are provided via an urn with plenty of seating for people to settle in. At one time we relied on portaloos but with the recent installation of toilets, we haven’t looked back!

Two female staff in winter coats smiling and holding up a dormouse box
Proud staff enjoying their day away from the office to build a dormouse box to help local wildlife (Downlands Partnership)

Once people have arrived, there’s a quick introduction with a health & safety talk and we then move swiftly into a programme of timed sessions. There’s lots on offer, fancy learning how to do a sheep health check? a shearing demonstration? feeding lambs or wildlife spotting in the fields? The secret seems to be offering a taste of something that everyone can enjoy. Meeting the orphan lambs or bug hunting allows children to blow off steam, as the adults can learn the finer details of how to help ewes at lambing or discuss keeping chickens in their back yard. A little unstructured time at the end for chit chat lets most people make their own way out between buffer times. These types of open events are a great introduction for promoting your wider work in the community and form a great first impression. You may even be able to raise money by selling things your volunteers have made – bird box anyone?

Corporate events need the most planning and work, you must ensure that you are delivering a worthwhile experience. You will learn the most from the first few you host, always make sure you get feedback from your team and the attendees. Good communication may include making a poster that can be emailed out, include all the necessary information to give people plenty of time to raise questions. If you’re catering, this is the time to ask about dietary requirements! Visitors of a less practical background really value a sense of contribution and achievement. Building and construction projects are ideal if you can source the materials. Get everything you need as early as you can, especially if you do events as a side hustle. You may even take the time to prepare the more complex parts of a project beforehand to avoid groups forming a ‘bottleneck’ on the day, as there’s nothing more deflating than people feeling they’re superfluous. Prepare to accept that things will not be done perfectly and find the fun in it. This will put people at ease and you will see them quickly improving as they become absorbed into the experience and competing with their peers.

Having a pool of reliable volunteers has been crucial to us running events. The set up becomes part of the fun and before you know it, you’ll be ridiculed for delegating jobs that have already been done! Some of our volunteers are trained task leaders and others fill in the gaps that help the day to run smoothly. The volunteers get a lot out of helping and enjoy variety it brings to their role, the free lunch helps too!

Large group of people enjoying a barbecue inside of a barn
The most important part of the day – the BBQ! (Downlands Partnership)

Speaking of which, the most critical part of any gathering will be the food! We do a BBQ for catered events, both inexpensive and efficient. Always buy more than you think, all groups have their gannets. The same goes for the meat eater who decides they want to eat all the vegan food that day….grrrr. Little extra garnishes go a long way - you’ll be famous for offering gherkins, followed by something sweet for dessert to seal the deal. A food hygiene certificate is a must for any staff and volunteers dealing with the food, a simple online course at a reasonable price.

To minimise the tidy up, make sure bins are placed near gathering spots. Go for compostable cutlery, not just for the environment but people will always ask. Designated areas for completed tasks and tools will make things easier to organise later.

Logo: Downlands Partnership Grazing

Once everyone has had their fun, send them off with a massive thank you and a full belly. They will soon want to return for another round!

Any queries please contact

DownlandsLivestock (@Downygrazers) / Twitter

Downlands Partnership - Surrey County Council (

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Posted On: 24/02/2023

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