Ipswich: Schoolchildren gear up for Suffolk Agricultural Association’s School Farm and Country Fair

Children keen to make friends with the pigs at Trinity Park

Children keen to make friends with the pigs at Trinity Park - Credit: Archant

On Thursday, Suffolk schoolchildren will descend on Suffolk Showground at Trinity Park in Ipswich to take part in what has become an annual staple of the farming calendar, the School Farm and Country Fair. Organisers Suffolk Agricultural Association gives an insight into one of its showcase events.

There is no sight or sound as distinctive as that of thousands of seven to nine-year-olds descending the steps of buses for the SAA’s annual School Farm and Country Fair. It’s a very special day in the calendar, one of the highlights of the ever-developing education programme.

Now in its 13th year, every school has had the opportunity to attend, more than 50,000 pupils have participated. At the suggestion of Lord Deben, the association’s outgoing President, the association wrote to the schools that had not previously attended, personally inviting them this year which produced a positive response for a dozen of them. The event is annually over-subscribed, has seen an increase in sponsors, new exhibitors and even has a new chairman in arable farmer John Taylor, whose ambition it is to ensure that all Suffolk schoolchildren experience this event during their primary school education. “I would love to see food and farming significantly higher on the national curriculum, so children, parents teachers can all appreciate the importance of the countryside to their food.”

Never has there been such an interest in connecting children with the origins of their food as there is today. “

Among the new exhibitors on April 25, British Sugar will show how sugar is produced from locally grown sugar beet; Healthy Ambitions Suffolk and Cook With Me Kids will help children get a good start to the day by showing them how to prepare granola and yogurt breakfasts; Zebra Science will demonstrate the importance of pollen in crop production and EATS – East Anglia Taste for Schools - will bring its mobile Streats Kitchen for a cook up using locally grown ingredients.

The event provides 4000 pupils from 95 schools throughout Suffolk with opportunities to discover where their food comes from, see animals and machinery at work and gain some experience and knowledge of the countryside. Marquees are erected on site each focusing on different areas and live demonstrations take place in the display rings at Trinity Park, Ipswich, the home of the Suffolk Show.

Baby chicks hatching, bread-making, sowing potato seeds, sausage-making, creating compost, re-enacting farming in the 1940s in costume, are among the many interactive “hands-on” experiences.

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For many children this is their first chance to stroke a dog, watch sheep shearing, plant seeds, or be close up to animals - stroking tiny chicks and ducklings is always a popular part of the day. A re-enactment by the Museum of East Anglian Life, as part of the farming timeline, reveals how farming methods and machinery have changed over the years and there’s the chance of a tractor trailer ride to the ancient woodland trail and wildlife area. Once hands are washed, grinding grains, kneading bread, sampling dairy products, different meats and vegetables and discovering their origins are all highly popular activities.

More than 65 exhibitors, some who have attended the event since it began, give their time free of charge, as do the 190 volunteer stewards who are mainly farmers and able to provide extra knowledge as they escort the classes. The SAA even funds the bus transport.

The School Farm and Country Fair began when the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease forced closure of the Suffolk Show. The organisers turned what was a potential disaster into what has become an educational success story. The idea was practical and simple – to help primary school pupils discover the origins of their food and how the countryside impacts on their young lives.

Many return to Trinity Park with their families for the Suffolk Show as the association gives each child a free ticket to the annual two-day event to be held this year on May 29 and 30.

For more information and discounted tickets to the Suffolk Show visit www.suffolkshow.co.uk

Ipswich: Schoolchildren gear up for Suffolk Agricultural Association’s School Farm and Country Fair