Claire Wright, CLA Regional Surveyor on getting involved with educating the next generation.
According to surveys from the British Nutrition Foundation many children have a poor understanding of where their food comes from. 29% of the 5-7 year olds surveyed believed that cheese grows on plants whilst 13% thought that pasta came from animals whilst with increasing screen time the National Trust found that whilst 33% of children could not identify a magpie; 90% of them could recognise a Dalek.
The East of England Agricultural Society has decided to play a part in remedying these knowledge gaps amongst children in Key Stage One and Two by organising a whole series of learning days including Lambing Sunday, Farmhouse Breakfast week, Grow Your Own Potatoes Day & Happy Chicks day throughout the year which culminates in the educational extravaganza known as Kids Country.
Team CLA has been involved with these events from the early days with staff and members getting involved as volunteers and hosts. This year I have helped at Lambing Sunday running fun craft activities for the younger visitors and also been involved with Kids Country as a Zone Leader making sure our 3500 participants from 53 schools were able to learn about horses and dogs. Some of them were stroking a horse for the first time, some of them had never seen a dog worked off-lead and everyone was fascinated by the farriers turning a bar of steel into a horseshoe. Elsewhere at the event they could watch a demonstration of the farming year with the big kit we see on farms, meet cattle and sheep, tackle drystone walling, get involved in the Kids’ Kitchen or try hundreds of other hands-on activities all run by volunteers.
It is easy to bemoan the lack of knowledge that an increasingly urban population has about food production, farming and the countryside but it just as easy to give up a few hours of your week to support activities such as these. I know that giving up 2 days out of 365 means I can make a real difference in sharing my love of the countryside and farming with the next generation.
It isn’t just the children that benefit, getting involved as a volunteer has given me chance to develop my confidence, teamwork and leadership skills as I work with a whole range of people from entirely different skill sets and backgrounds to create an event that is considered by most children to be the highlight of their school year.
Why not make 2020 the year that you get involved with a farming educational initiative? Whether that is Open Farm Sunday, a Lambing weekend or a Farming day like the one I’ve been at because the feeling that you get when you see a child smile because they have had an unforgettable experience that has only been possible because you made it happen through your volunteering truly cannot be beaten.