Pupils taught fun of farming at field event

Essex children at the 8th Food and Farming Day held at Writtle College on Thursday, June 4.

Essex children at the 8th Food and Farming Day held at Writtle College on Thursday, June 4. - Credit: Archant

Around 300 farmers were called into action this week as thousands of Essex schoolchildren descended on Writtle College to learn about where their food comes from.

Three thousand pupils, aged eight to 11, from more than 60 schools immersed their arms in a bag of oilseed rape seeds, held worms used in organic farming, stroked cows and alpacas, watched huge tractors being driven across a field, made sausages and ground flour at the eight Essex Schools Food and Farming Day yesterday.

The Essex Agricultural Society event gives many schoolchildren their first experience of farm life, including the chance to see livestock up close, hear the thunderous roar of a combine harvester and taste farm produce after learning of its journey from field to fork, helped by an army of farmer volunteers and college staff.

The children could put their hands under a crop sprayer shooting out water, find out about turkey-rearing, see recently-hatched chicks and peer inside a bee hive. They found out about the production of sugar in East Anglia, biological pest control on crops, how to save water and vegetable wholesalers.

Writtle principal Dr Stephen Waite said: “The college is extremely happy to be involved with this event alongside Essex Agricultural Society. It is a fantastic day and provides over 3,000 local schoolchildren with an opportunity to understand, perhaps for the first time, where and how their food is produced.

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“Hopefully, this hands-one event will sow the seed of an idea, encouraging them to find out more about farming, their environment and even think about a career in the land-based sector. Too few people appreciate how important these industries are to the UK and the range of challenging, exciting and well-paid careers they offer.”

The event was split into a farm trail around five zones – machinery, crops, livestock, countryside & environment and food. Each zone encompassed a key element of the food and farming story with fun, interactive exhibits provided by mainly Essex organisations and businesses.

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Among the animals in the livestock zone were dairy cows, chicks, pigs, sheep, turkeys and alpacas, with a sheep-shearing show outside.

In the food zone, children were shown how Wilkin & Son makes its world-famous jams from strawberries, while teachers could be nominated to taste oysters and children could find out about the cereal journey.

Combine harvesters, seed drills and tractors were the main attractions of the machinery zone, with farmers telling the children about the capability of the huge machines.

In the countryside and environment zone, children could get up-close to Common Kestrels, wear a bee suit, hold a piece of honeycomb and learn about the movement of water by using an Archimedes Screw and shifting grains of plastic, while the crops zone showed them how to grind flour, how worms turn natural rubbish into soil, and how to crush oilseed rape seeds into oil.

The aim is to give youngsters a better understanding of the food chain and the role played by farmers in Essex, as well as raising awareness of the countryside, environmental issues and healthy eating.

Hannah Marriage, from Marriage’s Millers of Chelmsford, said: “We are asking the children to think about where their breakfast comes from and showing them that a lot comes from wheat - their cereal, bagels and croissants. We have a mini milling wheel that they can turn so they can make wholemeal flour. We’re also showing them that the by-product is used for animal feed, given to pigs and chickens which produce the bacon and eggs for breakfast.”

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