500 schoolchildren to enjoy hands-on farm experience
Today's children are increasingly out of touch with the countryside – and with farming in particular. And even though it is a predominantly rural county, the problem is as prevalent in Cornwall as it is in other parts of the country.
Now, two of the county's leading rural organisations have come together to tackle the problem head on.
Farm & Country, a dedicated food and farming discovery day for schools, will be held at the Royal Cornwall Showground, Wadebridge, on March 20. It is a joint venture between the Cornwall Food and Farming Group and the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association.
Aimed at seven to nine-year-olds, the event will give up to 500 children hands-on experience of farms and farming. It will demonstrate the link between farming and the food we all eat.
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"It is in all our interests that children understand the nature and importance of farming – and particularly the key sectors of the Cornish agriculture and food industry," said one of the organisers, Hilary Wood, of the Cornwall Food and Farming Group.
John Dickinson is a retired head teacher from St Austell, who now works as an educational consultant. He believes this event is highlighting an area of major concern, as all our lives become more urban-focused.
"Today's children are the decision-makers of the future and decision-making is focused with an urban perspective," he said. "We are losing awareness of how important farming is to our future. There are fundamental questions to be faced and it is fantastically important to get these messages across."
An awareness of rurality, of where food comes from and of the vital role of the countryside, is not "in the general knowledge" – even among children who live in proximity to working farms, he stressed. The problems this situation throws up are exacerbated by the fact that the same level of ignorance about rural life and work can be found among the younger groups of teachers.
"Schools should be braver in involving themselves in projects like this. We need to educate children for the future and a large part of the future will centre around today's children working in urban environments. Getting the balance is the trick," added Mr Dickinson.
At Farm & Country, children will be able to get up close to a range of farm animals and learn at first-hand about the practicalities of farming. They will see farm machinery, including a huge combine harvester, and will be able to see and taste a range of food made in Cornwall.
Dawn Coryn, of St Merryn near Padstow, keeps Angus and Holstein cattle and will be taking some to the event. "It's not that many generations ago that farming and food-related jobs were commonplace and obvious, which gave people a direct link with the rural environment," she said.
"This day will give some kids the chance to get closer to an animal than ever before. A lot of parents have not been around a farm, unlike generations before, where there was a link. That cohesion is important and it may slip away."
The organisers are looking for support from industry and rural organisations to help cover the cost of mounting this ambitious event, which has attracted 50 exhibitors.