With the global population estimated to be over 7 billion, the importance of food and farming has never been greater. That is the message that will be promoted throughout the annual Essex Schools Food and Farming Day hosted at Writtle College, in conjunction with Essex Agriculture Society and Essex County Council.
Now in its 9th year, more than 60 schools from across Essex will be attending this year’s Food and Farming day on Wednesday 8th June to discover where their food comes from and the importance of creating a sustainable future for our planet.
Writtle College, which provides courses in agriculture, horticulture, conservation and related subjects, will play host to more than 3,000 primary schoolchildren as they all aim to learn more about food, farming and the countryside, this interactive event will certainly deliver an exciting experience for all.
For many school children, it is their first experience of farm life, giving them an exciting opportunity to see livestock up close, hear the thunderous roar of a combine harvester and taste farm produce after learning of its journey from field to fork. From tractors to sausage-making, to turkey-rearing, and lots of food tasting, the event will feature five zones where the children can find out more about how food is produced, take part in activities and watch demonstrations.
Rosemary Padfield, chair of the event’s steering group, said: “Every year, this event becomes more and more important as future generations need to be provided with a sound understanding of the food chain. The level of interest in the event is always great as schools recognise the role the day plays in allowing young children to interact with food and farming in a fun way.
The industry is crying out for new blood to come through, so it’s vital that we do our part in ensuring youngsters understand and appreciate how it all works. We are thrilled that this event is so embedded into the schools’ diary that within weeks of us announcing the date last autumn we were heavily oversubscribed.
“I am so proud that fellow farmers and allied industries rally around us to help with this day volunteering to either exhibit or act as a steward to help the children make the best of their visit. They are all so passionate about our industry that they are keen to help the children learn and think about the environment they live in, encouraging them to ask questions about what they see. We need to inspire the next generation of farmers, and those working in our allied industries – I cannot think of a better way to encourage this!”
The event is split into a farm trail around five zones – machinery, crops, livestock, countryside & environment and food. Each zone encompasses a key element of the food and farming story with fun, interactive exhibits provided by mainly Essex organisations and businesses featuring hand-on activities like tasting local produce; identifying vegetables fruits and seeds; a sheep-shearing demonstration; meeting a cow and her calf; seeing how sausages are made; discovering where flour comes from and seeing how farm machinery has developed over the years with a showcase of farm machinery.
Karen Watson, Essex Agricultural Society, Organiser and School Liaison Officer, said: “We are very proud to be able to give children the opportunity to leave the classroom and take part in this extremely fun, educational day where we aim to improve their understanding of where their food comes from, and the hard work farmers do to put food on all our plates. These children are our future consumers and countryside users and it is important to explain to them how and why we, as farmers, go about looking after the Essex countryside so that it is productive, bio-diverse and beautiful.
“We hope they all leave with a greater appreciation for the great outdoors, gaining an understanding of the importance of farming, both in supplying food and protecting wildlife within its natural habitat.”
Writtle College Principal Dr Stephen Waite added: “We are always delighted to host such a wonderful event. Every year, it impresses me more and more how engaged and excited the future generation is about food and farming. We obviously hope a lot of these school children will end up wanting to pursue a career in the land-based sector and we would be delighted to see them return to study with us in years to come.
“As a College, we are always keen to communicate the wide range of areas and activities within food and farming as that always surprises people of all ages and that is one of the key messages we hope they take away with them after the event.”