Taste of farm life for pupils

THOUSANDS of Suffolk schoolchildren were given a taste of farm life as they enjoyed a day out at Trinity Park in Ipswich at the annual School Farm Fair.

By Sarah Chambers

THOUSANDS of Suffolk schoolchildren were given a taste of farm life as they enjoyed a day out at Trinity Park in Ipswich at the annual School Farm Fair.

In what was described as the largest one-day educational event in the county, around 3,500 youngsters aged seven to nine descended on Trinity Park, formerly known as the Suffolk Showground, yesterday on what turned out to be a warm day with plenty of sunshine.

They came face to face with the people who work in the farming industry, and learnt more about how food reaches their plates.

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Children got to see horses, sheep, pigs, goats and day-old chicks, and watch sheep dogs in action, as well as trying out foods ranging from sausages to cakes, and picnicking on the grass.

They also learnt about crop cycles from sowing to harvesting, and got to examine farm machinery.

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Up to 200 volunteer exhibitors manned around 50 stands, and volunteer stewards from the farming community guided parties of children around the event.

The event, now in its sixth year, grew out of the foot-and-mouth crisis, which led to the cancellation of the annual Suffolk Show, the highlight of the Suffolk Agricultural Association calendar. The format is now copied in other parts of the country.

It proved a huge success. Changes were made to allow it to focus on a narrower age range so that the educational element could be tailored to their needs.

This year, organisers opened it up to a further 500 pupils, but that still left 2,800 on their waiting lists disappointed. They will be put to the top of the list for next year's event.

Suffolk Agricultural Association executive director Christopher Bushby applauded it as a particularly memorable event this year, coinciding as it does with the Association's 175th anniversary.

“We have been delighted to host this superb event once again,” he said.

“Ever since we launched the initiative, we have always felt confident that it has a place as an opportunity to celebrate the role of farming.

“This year in particular, the food message - as it relates to children - is particularly poignant and resonates with the wider community.

“We have been pleased to see such a great level of interest and to see children learning so much more about food and farming.”

The children's travel costs to the fair were heavily subsidised by the SAA through its sponsors and entry was free.

Laura Jestico, head of Wetheringsett primary school, who brought a party of children to the fair, said: “I think it's a fabulous event and the interactive learning activities bring the science and the geography part of the curriculum to life.”

* See Saturday's County Life for full coverage of the event.

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