May 2010

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

For the third year running Writtle College near Chelmsford working in conjunction with Essex Agricultural Society and Essex County Council, will play host to an innovative county event to help children discover more about agriculture, where their food comes from and the countryside.

The Essex Schools Food and Farming Day will be staged on Thursday May 27, with 3,000 primary schoolchildren and 500 teachers and assistants from all over Essex attending. The aim of this fun and educational event is 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 will be 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, will feature hands-on activities including milling wheat and sausage making, cookery demonstrations using local produce, fruit and vegetable identification and tasting, spinning and willow weaving activities, insect and bird recognition games, livestock displays, milking demonstrations and farm machinery demonstrations.

Two hundred farmer stewards have been 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 forthcoming event, Jamie Oliver said recently: “We all know how vital it is to teach children about the importance of good food. One good place to start that education is down on the farm. As an Essex boy I’m really excited by the idea of an Essex Schools Food and Farming day. I hope everyone has a great day.”

Adam Henson, Farmer and TV presenter, at a recent Essex Agricultural Society conference spoke about the importance of attracting "bright, intelligent people who understand precision technology, marketing and other commercial aspects" in addition to important practical knowledge into the industry and encouraged farmers to "climb onto soapboxes and shout about what an amazing business we have!"

Guy Smith, Essex Farmer and chairman of the event steering group, added: “At first glance Essex appears a rather urban county with not much countryside but if you look at the map you can see there is far more green than grey. Essex is important to farming and farming is important to Essex. Essex school children are our future consumers and future countryside users. 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.

“It is particularly rewarding that when the Essex Agricultural Society, in partnership with Writtle College and Essex County Council, put on an event like the Essex Schools Food and Farming Day we get such a brilliant response from the schools. We were fully booked within weeks of announcing the event. As farmers we are very proud that non-farmers take such an interest in what we do and want to know more."

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.”