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Farming event which feeds children’s minds

11:00 07 June 2014

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, visits Essex Schools Food and Farming Day with one of her constituency schools, Powers Hall Academy in Witham, accompanied by Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, visits Essex Schools Food and Farming Day with one of her constituency schools, Powers Hall Academy in Witham, accompanied by Guy Smith, vice-president of the National Farmers' Union and St Osyth farmer (back, tan jacket).

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Around 3,000 primary schoolchildren got hands-on experience of farming and the countryside at an event this week.

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Essex Schools Food and Farming Day, hosted by Writtle College in Chelmsford, took place on Thursday. The interactive event - now in its seventh year - is organised by Essex Agricultural Society in partnership with the college and Essex County Council.

Since the first event in 2008, more than 18,000 children have visited the college to learn where their food comes from, and more than 500 children are on the waiting list this year.

Dr Stephen Waite, Writtle College principal, said the event was “a fantastic showcase” of the role of farming in our daily lives and the importance of the countryside.

“Writtle College is very proud to host the event and it’s been wonderful to see the thousands of children get involved and engage with the exhibits here – and to hear the laughter and excitement at the different zones,” he said.

Essex MP Priti Patel, who was among the VIPs who attended the event, visited the zones with a school in her constituency, Powers Hall Academy, Witham.

“This is a truly magical event for children from across the county to attend and learn about food and farming,” she said.

“The day provides a real insight into the production of food as well as the important role that farming and agriculture have on the countryside and our environment. I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of this very valuable educational day and I urge as many schools as possible to sign up for the day again in 2015.”

Both teachers and pupils at the event were enthusiastic about the displays and experiences at the event.

Rebecca Butler-Smith, teacher at Powers Hall Academy, Witham, said: “It’s been brilliant. The children especially enjoyed the food zone, as they found out where our food comes from, how different crops and vegetables grow, and learnt about the different grains. They also enjoyed the livestock zone, as they love the animals.

“We are a healthy school and do a lot of outdoor learning about how food grows and the benefits of healthy eating, so this links in with our work really well.”

Emma Clark, who teaches at Maldon Court Preparatory School, said: “The children have been very excited about coming as they knew they would see lots of animals that they wouldn’t normally get up close to. The boys especially liked the farm machinery.

“We’ve linked the day in with our topic – safari – so we are imagining that we are on safari today. We have a healthy school committee so we promote walking to school, teach the children about keeping a healthy diet and they are involved in planning the school menu so all the themes at this event link in with the school’s work.”

Fiona Murdoch, aged 10, from Powers Hall Academy, said she enjoyed seeing all the animals, especially the cows.

“I was really interested to learn that wheat is in flour,” she said.

Amelia Carter, aged eight, from Maldon Court, loved seeing the chicks. She said: “They are very cute chicks and look really fluffy. They do sound quite noisy. It’s been great seeing the animals up close.”

Karen Watson, Essex Agricultural Society School Liaison Officer, said: “It’s been another successful year and the weather has obviously helped. We had a full turnout, with 3,000 children here and many of the exhibitors have said it has been the best year yet. Feedback from schools is given post-event but there have been some very happy, smiley faces going around the showground. There have been a wide variety of exhibits so the message of where our food comes from and the Essex countryside has been told today.”

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