For the fourth 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 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 will be staged on Thursday May 26, 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 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 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 annual event, Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and well recognised figure from the county of Essex said: “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.”
Guy Smith, Essex Farmer and chairman of the event steering group, added: “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. 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.”
Confirmed exhibitors for 2011 are:
• Butlers Farm Alpacas
• Foxes Farm Produce
• L Bartrupt & Sons Ltd
• RHS (School Gardening Campaign)
• Tiptree Jam Factory
• W A Church of Bures Ltd
• W H Marriage & Sons Ltd
• Centre for Equine and Animal Science (CEQAS)
• The Sheep Show
• Writtle College Farm
• Writtle College Animal Care Unit
• Kellys Turkeys Ltd
• R Padfield and Son
• Centre for Arts and Design in the Environment (CADE)
• NFU Food and Farming Roadshow
• Ernest Doe
• Slow Food Group
• East Essex Food and Farming Group
• Farming and Countryside Education (FACE)
• Food for Life Partnership
• Jimmy’s Farm- Essex Pig Company
• The Chelmsford Star Co-operative
• Writtle College- School of Horticulture
• Writtle Evening Women’s Institute
• Essex and Suffolk Water
• Essex Wildlife Trust
• Chelmsford Beekeepers
• Richard Haward Oysters
• Epping Forest Hawk and Owl Sanctuary
• Anglian Water
• Lee Valley Park
Essex County Council has provided £35,000 to help fund the event as well as offering to assist schools by arranging and procuring transport for school children to and from the Essex Schools Food and Farming Day.
In support of the event, Writtle College is having a non-teaching day in order to provide exclusive use of the venue, staff and student helpers. Established in 1893, Writtle College has a respected reputation as one of the UK's leading land-based institutions, offering a range of full and part-time diplomas and vocational training, University of Essex Foundation and Honours degrees and Postgraduate programmes. Set in its own 220-hectare estate with landscaped gardens, the College facilities include a working animal unit, equine training and development centre and stud, working farm and sports fields.
Event funders include:
• Essex County Council
• Essex NFU Members Trust
• Felix Cobbold Trust
• Perry Foundation
• Ford Britain Trust
• Maldon Salt
• Chadacre Agricultural Trust
• Ernest Doe / Ernest Doe Power
• The Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society
• Writtle College