For the fourth year running Writtle College near Chelmsford, working in conjunction with Essex Agricultural Society and Essex County Council, hosted an innovative county event to help children gain knowledge about the journey of their food from field to fork and raise awareness of the countryside around them.
The Essex Schools Food and Farming Day was staged on Thursday May 26, with 3,000 primary schoolchildren and 500 teachers and assistants from all over Essex attending. The aim of the fun and educational event was to give children a better understanding of the food chain and the role played by farming in Essex, as well as raising awareness of countryside and environmental issues.
The event was split into a trail around five zones - machinery, crops, livestock, food and countryside, and environment - each of which encompass a key element of the food and farming story. Exhibits, provided by local and regional organisations, featured hands-on activities including milling wheat and butter making, cookery demonstrations using local produce, fruit and vegetable identification and tasting, and willow weaving activities, insect and bird recognition games, livestock displays, milking demonstrations and farm machinery demonstrations.
Two hundred farmer stewards were recruited to guide each group through the various activities, giving pupils direct contact with members of the local food and farming community.
In response to the success of the fourth annual event, Guy Smith, Essex Farmer and chairman of the event steering group, said: “What an exciting and memorable day this has been for all, even the weather could not dampen the enjoyment on the day. We always have such a consistent and enthusiastic response from all the schools invited to the day, and we are also fortunate that there is such a desire within the farming community to explain to future consumers where their food comes from.
The day is as success because we are able to introduce the children to bite sized chunks of the field to fork story. Children are more responsive to why the Essex countryside looks as it does when standing in front of a tractor or an animal - it is important to explain to young students how and why we, as farmers, go about looking after the Essex countryside so that it is productive, bio-diverse and beautiful.”
County Councillor Peter Martin, Leader of Essex County Council, went on to say: “Essex is an important agricultural county, employing thousands and feeding millions, so it is important that we show children how to understand and preserve this landscape. The Food and Farming Day gives youngsters the opportunity to see first hand how agriculture shapes the countryside, providing us with access to open spaces and recreational activities, which helps us to enjoy healthier lifestyles.”