I paused for a moment before answering and instead asked him if he’d ever drunk chicken milk. “No Miss,” he answered, “but my Dad says you can make milk from anything these days”.
This struck me forcefully on two fronts, firstly how disconnected young people must be from food production that they don’t know where milk comes from, secondly that his father isn’t far behind him in misinformation and a disregard of the dairy industry’s unique role.
So this is why every year we spend two days at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s event, talking to around 4,000 children over two days – many on their first trip outside a town.
We bring well-handled farm animals for the children to see and answer a plethora of questions. We let the children, many of whom can’t even identify a sheep from a pig (I joke not), touch and wonder at not just at our livestock but at us too! They are equally amazed that ours is a real job.
Promoting positive messages of British farming
Teachers also show less and less knowledge of food and animals. I despaired at how few knew that sheep had wool not fur. This is why I think we must support the work of the brilliant NFU Education team.
I’m never sure whether members know what a brilliant resource we have in them – educating teachers and training farmers like myself to go into schools to promote the positive messages of British farming.
I’ve long given up expecting the curriculum to teach children about the countryside, but as the parent of three primary children, I also think a great way to make a difference is to seize back control, get into schools ourselves and put forward a positive face for farming. That’s exactly what NFU Education is doing.
Bringing life experience to education
So I did explain gently to that lovely but confused young lad that you can’t get milk from chickens, and showed him an udder on a cow just to press the message home. But I also followed it up with a chat about the magical nutritional value of cows’ milk, the powerful role of grass-fed systems to suck in carbon and the superhuman powers of the men and women who manage these amazing animals and landscapes.
Engaging in education, we bring life experience and enthusiasm because we’re living it, and that’s what young people will remember as tomorrow’s consumers. Speaking of tomorrow, I’m off to a local secondary school on an NFU Education myth busting tour. As teenagers are terrifying, I’m approaching this like I do calving a lively cow – no sudden movements, be aware of exits, but mainly I just hope to get out in one piece.