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New project aims to teach and nurture the farmers of the future

PUBLISHED: 12:18 03 September 2014 | UPDATED: 12:19 03 September 2014

Meeting some of the dairy residents at Melbury

Meeting some of the dairy residents at Melbury

Archant

Many children - even those who live rurally - are ignorant of where food comes from. A new education project aims to change all that - and nurture the farmers of the future

The best way of teaching someone how to do something is let them experience it firsthand. FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) is a great believer in this and for the last 13 years has been building bridges between the classroom and the farmyard in an effort to educate children about the importance of farming’s involvement with a sustainable countryside.

As a national charity FACE relies entirely on the support of donations and since 2011 The Prince’s Countryside Fund has given their support to FACE’s Countryside Matters initiative. The project centres on farm visits, school-based activities such as growing and cooking food, and professional development for teachers to help deliver lessons. It is anticipated that 9,000 children a year benefit from this project alone.

It is not just children from areas of economic disadvantage, or even urban areas, that benefit from the expertise of FACE, as their South West regional education co-ordinator Paul Hillard explains. “There are still children who live in rural areas who don’t know the link between the cows, sheep and crops that they see in the fields around them and their food.”

Paul grew up in East Coker, just over the Somerset border, where 85 per cent of people in the village had some connection with a farm. “At the end of the war there were 22 farms in the parish. Everyone had some sort of connection with a countryside trade. Now most people living in the village only go there to sleep.” FACE was established in 2001 after a survey revealed how little young people knew about where their food came from and an NFU Enhancement Initiative was created to re-educate children about the land surrounding them.

“They organised a project near Manchester to see if by visiting a farm the children’s knowledge would increase,” Paul explains. “After carrying out three visits in 10 weeks to the same farm the children’s understanding and their standard of work improved quite dramatically.”

Over the last decade FACE has built up a network of participating farms across the country and encouraged schools to experience the day-to-day workings of the farmyard.

“We have a good base of farms in Dorset, of all different sorts” adds Paul. “Each is able to create the right sort of environment for a varied experience for the children during their visits. Without the support of The Prince’s Countryside Fund our ability to deliver a number of our projects, such as these farm visits, would be severely reduced.”

Back in June pupils from Bridport Primary School joined children from schools in South Somerset for their fourth annual visit to the Ilchester Estates and Melbury House, at the invitation of Lady Charlotte Townshend. “The visit gave children an insight into the workings of a countryside estate and about the roles played by people like the gamekeeper and the forester,” explains Paul. “They also discovered how a dairy farm is run. During last year’s visit three or four calves were born and there were 30 or 40 children watching in awe.

“You only need to see the children’s faces to know that it is something that they are going to remember. Hopefully after their visit they appreciate that their food doesn’t just appear in the supermarket. Someone somewhere is working extremely hard to make that happen. One of the Bridport School staff heard a boy say ‘I’ve broken a record today because I’ve learned more today than I ever have on any day before’, that just about sums up what we want to achieve.”

Beccy Rumens, a teacher at Bridport Primary School, says that their visit was a fantastic day of learning for the children..

“They took part in a tree measuring session and found out how to date the trees which was absolutely fascinating. Then the farrier showed them how he prepares the horses to have their shoes fitted. The children also learned about the importance of managing the estate’s deer herd numbers and how this was done. There were even some venison sausages for us to try. For some this was their first taste of venison,” she smiles. “In the dairy we saw the milking and to round it off there was a sheep shearing session.”

Visits like this aren’t just about farm work, they also enhance an understanding of how land is managed for the good of the countryside as well as letting pupils consider the countryside as a career.

“Dorset is a rural county, we are known for our food and farming but unless you are involved with it firsthand you don’t have an understanding of it.

“To teach children about what takes place in a practical environment gives them the opportunity to think, ‘I could do that’, and help them to achieve it.”

Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) aims to educate children and young people about food and farming in a sustainable countryside. Site visits to working farms are at the very heart of the initiative, and the organisation seeks to rebuild bridges between children and the countryside.

For more information visit face-online.org.uk or call 0845 838 7192.

The public can make a donation online at Virgin Giving at the Post Office or by text. Text PCF to 70300 and a £3 donation will be made to The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

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Read on

How the Women in Rural Enterprise are being helped by the Prince’s Countryside Fund across Dorset

Prince’s Countryside Fund helps residents of Milton Abbas have their own plot of land

Prince’s Countryside Fund providing support to Dorset’s farming community

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