The sun beat down for a glorious day while 3,000 Essex school children roamed the Food and Farming Day showground at Writtle College.
For the fifth year running Writtle College near Chelmsford, working in conjunction with Essex Agricultural Society and Essex County Council, played 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, staged on Thursday May 24, invited 3,000 primary schoolchildren and 500 teachers and assistants from all over Essex. The aim of the fun and educational event was to get 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 countryside and environmental issues.
Each year the event is oversubscribed and we are pleased to say that over 60% of places allocated this year went to new schools across the county.
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, butter making, cookery demonstrations and tasting using local produce, seed identification, fruit and vegetable identification, insect and bird recognition games, livestock displays, milking demonstrations and farm machinery demonstrations.
Two hundred farmer stewards were recruited to guide small groups 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: “We are particularly fortunate that there is such a desire within the farming community to explain to future consumers where their food comes from.
The day is a 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.”
“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 that 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.”
Pictured: Stroking owls in the Countryside and Environment tent