Chairman of Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) and founder of Open Farm Sunday, Ian Pigott OBE, discusses the factors responsible for the breaking down of common misconceptions in children about where their food comes from.
‘Carrots grow on trees’ and other such caricatures are often wielded to emphasise the disconnect that exists between school children and where their food comes from. And sadly, yes, there are still children who do not make the link between the food on their plate and its origin on the farm. But things are changing...
I have hosted school visits for children aged 8-18 for fifteen years and I honestly believe that young people are more interested, more engaged and more stimulated by learning about farming and the countryside than ever before.
So why the change? Firstly, farming has a much higher media profile and as an industry we are getting better at telling our story and inspiring members of the public, which includes teachers. Secondly, recent changes to the curriculum have created ample opportunity for teachers to incorporate farming into their lessons. Thirdly, at long last, society is beginning to make the link between farming and global learning, including its relationship with resource protection, sustainability and health.
Succinctly, the 'why farming matters' penny seems to have dropped.
The NFU and Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) have seized this opportunity to rewrite and reissue 10,000 copies and create a downloadable version of one of their most popular and comprehensive educational resources – Why Farming Matters.
Made up of lesson plans, picture cards, and a supporting website with videos featuring NFU members, the Primary Schools education pack shows teachers how to use farming as the inspiration and context for learning across the curriculum. My experience has shown me how engaging a farm visit can be, but it is vital that agriculture is visible in classrooms as part of everyday lessons - not a one-off, not just a great day out.
To support and embed a farm visit, FACE encourages great pre- and post-visit work using resources such as Why Farming Matters, and others constantly in development. They also deliver training to student and experienced teachers so they have the confidence to visit and teach about farming, as well as running regular seminars for farmers to help keep farm visit quality high.
We all need to do what we can to reconnect young people with farming and food. We should also applaud the excellent work of FACE which is so generously supported by NFU and others within farming.