More than 3,000 primary schoolchildren from across Essex will be coming to Writtle College to find out more about where their food comes from.
Writtle College - in conjunction with Essex Agricultural Society and Essex County Council - will host the innovative event on 6 June to help children learn more about food, farming and the countryside.
From tractors to sausage-making, bread-tasting to turkey-rearing, the event will feature zones where the children can discover more about how food is produced from field to fork, take part in activities and watch demonstrations.
The aim of this fun and educational event is to bring children ‘out of the classroom’ and give them a better understanding of the food chain and the role played by farmers in Essex, as well as raising awareness of the countryside, environmental issues and healthy eating.
Guy Smith, Essex farmer and chairman of the event’s steering group, said: “The most encouraging thing about being involved in putting this day together is the fact so many schools want to come to the event - within weeks of us announcing the event in the autumn we are over-subscribed. As a farmer I think it’s great that I work in an industry where schools and schoolchildren have such an appetite to learn more about what I do. Not many other industries are so lucky.
“Farmers are involved in the fundamentals of life - food and the management of the countryside. Essex as a county has a lot of people who all need feeding; it also has a surprising amount of countryside which needs looking after. If children and schools are curious to know more about farming then we, as farmers, are delighted to teach them through the Essex Food and Farming Day. So the second best thing about putting on a day like this is we get so many willing volunteers from our industry to come along to help put together a fascinating and fun day out.”
Karen Watson, Education Officer with the Essex Agricultural Society - who won the Essex Life Food and Drink Hero award for her work with schoolchildren in Essex, said: “It is wonderful to see so many happy smiling faces at this event. The children are totally engrossed in the day and it is such a hands-on experience teaching the children about the journey of their food from field to fork - children touch, see and smell and learn so much in a fun, interactive way.
“For some of our visitors it is their first experience of being up-close to animals and they are always amazed that we grind wheat to make flour in order to have 'toast' for breakfast.
“The feedback from the schools clearly shows that the children learn a lot. Some say it is the ideal outdoor classroom, and the letters sent to our farmer stewards from the children undoubtedly show they have had a wonderful time.”
The event will be split into a trail around five zones - machinery, crops, livestock, food and countryside & environment - each of which encompass a key element of the food and farming story. Fun exhibits, provided by local and regional organisations, will feature hands-on activities including oilseed pressing, speed seed sowing, milling wheat, cookery demonstrations, tasting of local produce, seed identification, fruit and vegetable identification, insect and bird recognition games, livestock displays, milking and sheep shearing demonstrations and the showcasing of farm machinery for those enthused by combines, tractors, seed drills and balers!
The event involves 300 farmers and Writtle College staff with 500 teachers and assistants visiting with the schoolchildren. Volunteer stewards at the event guide small groups of the eight to 11-year-olds through the various activities, giving pupils direct contact with members of the local food and farming community.
Writtle College Principal Dr Stephen Waite said the day was an important way of inspiring young children: “This is a hugely successful and well-regarded event and I am very much looking forward to this year’s Food and Farming Day, which will be my first as Principal of Writtle College.
“You are never too young to learn about and enjoy the countryside and we hope the day will inspire children to find out more about food and farming – maybe they will become the rural leaders of the future!”
Councillor David Finch, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “We are delighted to be a part of such an event. The Essex Food and Farming Day not only gives young people a first-hand opportunity to see how agriculture shapes the countryside, but also about where their food comes from and about the importance of the rural countryside for the Essex economy and healthy lifestyles.”
Councillor Mick Page, Deputy Cabinet Member for Libraries, Communities and Planning, added: “Agriculture is of great importance to this county, employing thousands and feeding millions. It is hugely beneficial to be able to show children about where their food comes from and in such an explorative way. I look forward to attending the event this year and seeing first-hand all of the activities that will tell the food and farming story.”