Ipswich: Keeping British agriculture on a learning curve at Food and Farming Student Day, Hollow Trees Farm
- Credit: Andy Abbott
Food and Farming Student Day, an event aimed aimed at opening youngsters’ eyes to jobs connected to agriculture, rolled in at Hadleigh on Wednesday. SARAH CHAMBERS got the views of organisers and students.
Food and farming’s position as one of Suffolk’s foremost business sectors is belied by a less-than-starring role on the school curriculum.
Understudy may be overstating its classroom prominence, but, alongside Suffolk Agricultural Association’s hugely successful School Farm and Country Fair aimed at younger children, there is another initiative which is attempting to bring the industry to the awareness of teenagers in the county.
These make up the future generation of would-be farm managers, tractor drivers and agricultural experts which will drive the industry forward. But can the sector break the spell cast over youngsters entranced “glamour” careers in the media, marketing, beauty, sport or IT?
Now in its 5th year, Suffolk’s popular Food and Farming Student Day is attempting to do just that.
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The event, which took place at Hollow Trees Farm, near Hadleigh, on Wednesday, welcomed 275 secondary school pupils from across the county and opened up the possibilities of this often neglected sector.
Farmers and food producers from across the region explained what they do, with the aim of educating and enthusing students to take up courses after leaving school in agriculture with the longer term goal of boosting the farming and food industry.
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The event’s organisers are Hollow Trees Farm, Suffolk Education Partnership, Easton and Otley College and the Suffolk Agricultural Association and they are keen to harness younger talent within an ever-ageing agricultural workforce.
The day certainly appeared to have done the trick with some of the youngsters.
Amy, aged 14, from Ormiston Sudbury Academy, said: “It was amazing, really good. Our group particularly enjoyed the sausage making and looking at the animals. It’s made me think more about a career in food and farming.”
Jennifer, also aged 14, from Stowupland High, said the event had opened her eyes.
“It’s been a really enjoyable and interesting day and it’s made me realise that there is so much more to farming than I thought,” she said.
Over the past few years there has been an increase from school leavers, from across the country taking up a career in agriculture, horticulture and land management.
Some of this can be credited to events such as the Food and Farming Student Day. Since the event began five years ago, organisers say awareness amongst schools about attending the day has increased and schools are more aware of the benefits of this type of ‘outdoor learning’ experience. The trend looks set to continue with schools making more visits to farms as part of their curriculum.
“We are delighted to support the Food and Farming Student Day now in its fifth year,” said David Barker, trustee of the Chadacre Agricultural Trust.
“The partnership between all the event organisers is beginning to see dividends and we hope that through students experiencing events like the Food and Farming Student day at Hollow Trees Farm, that we continue to inspire younger generations to take up courses and careers in the industry, especially in agriculture where there is great demand for skilled young people to replace an ageing workforce.
“The Chadacre Agricultural Trust, in partnership with Sally Bendall, our host from Hollow Trees Farm and Chadacre trustee, and Chadacre governors John Wallace, Richard Garnham and Prof Keith Jaggard who were all in attendance, will continue to give support to this valuable event.
“It would not have taken place without the financial help of Chadacre Agricultural Trust and the co-ordination and help from Hannah Woods of the Suffolk Agricultural Association Education Officer.”
Curriculum manager for land-based agriculture at Easton and Otley College Natasha Waller said: “Easton and Otley college was proud to attend the food and farming student day at Hollow Trees Farm. This is the fifth year in a row that we have supported this occasion. Since joining forces as Easton and Otley College in August 2012, one of our main missions is to inspire young people to consider careers in agriculture and landbased professions and this event – that was attended by over 200 students – was the perfect opportunity for us to do this.
“During the day we had staff members and students representing a variety of different professions including countryside management, farming and gamekeeping. All in all, the youngsters were very receptive to the courses that we teach. We very much look forward to returning next year.”