Semer: Food and Farming Student Day at Hollow Trees

Farmers and Food producers from across the region came together for the fourth consecutive educational Food and Farming Student Day event at Hollow Trees Farm, Semer on Wednesday.

The aim of the day was to increase knowledge about farming and food production among young people. Over 250 pupils from 10 different schools where given an insight into one of Suffolk’s biggest business sectors; in the hope of influencing their career choices. It is estimated that in the next 10 years the agricultural industry will need 60,000 skilled workers, indicating a serious short fall in skilled labour.

Students were able to turn their hand to plant engineering, agronomy, grain trading and shown how much of the land is used to grow and support the food production industry.

Organisers Hollow Trees Farm, Suffolk Agricultural Association, Suffolk Education Business Partnership, and Otley College were all thrilled with the turnout.

Lord Iveagh, chairman of Chadacre Agricultural Trust whose grant funded the day, said: “Chadacre Agricultural Trust is delighted to support the Food and Farming Student Day, where so many of the exciting opportunities available to school leavers in agriculture and associated professions are set out. Agriculture, as a large, dynamic and strategic cornerstone of our local economy will only be sustained through youngsters acquiring relevant life skills.”

Helen Walker, Schools Farming Liaison Co-ordinator for Otley College, added: “The greatest challenge for our industry at the moment is to try and get young people interested in farming. The average age of farmers is rising - and as a college and an industry - we need to meet this challenge head on.”

The Food and Farming Student day is just one of the ways in which this challenge is being met head on.

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“This is why we are delighted to be associated with the schools Food and Farming Student Day event at Hollow Trees Farm. It is the fourth year consecutively that we have attended and we hope that the event inspires some of the students who attended this year to consider a career in farming or food production,” said Helen.

A group of students from Felixstowe Academy said: “We are very excited about the opportunities this event gives us for the future, and it was especially interesting to get hands on experience with the livestock.”

Helen Mickelsen, from Home Farm Nacton Ltd, which specialises in organic and leaf marque certified vegetables, offered students the opportunity to package fresh produce ready for sale. This activity alone enabled the students to get hands-on experience and learn some of the practical problems that food producers face on a daily basis. This was the company’s second year at the event and they said by having the practical activities it kept the children a lot more engaged and excited about the possibilities their company and the agricultural industry in general could offer.

Hannah Woods, Education Officer for the Suffolk Agricultural Association, said: “As an agricultural association we successfully organise food and farming events for primary school children. However, it is important for students of all ages to connect with agriculture to understand just how many exciting and interesting opportunities are available within the industry – this day showcases them really well”.