Discovering local food goes global!
Pupils come from far and wide for the latest Discovering Our Countryside project!
The “Discovering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) links in the local food chain” project aims to use local farms and East Yorkshire Local Food Network members to reconnect pupils and teachers with food production in their local area by taking them on food story visits from farm yard to dinner plate.
As luck, would have it the recent visits by pupils from Headlands School to Robert Rook’s Weighton Wold Farm and local farm shop Drewton’s coincided with an exchange visit by South African pupils from Sibelius High School Cape Town. So, local pupils and teachers were joined by their international friends for a tour around the local food chain giving it a real global perspective.
The “Discovering STEM links in the local food chain” project is run by Mark Thompson (in partnership with Stockbridge Technology Centre) and seeks to link local farms, food producers and retailers to tell the story of local food.
It is not about petting farm animals but about reconnecting pupils and teachers alike to the real details of local food production using real working local businesses. This ties in with the new GCSE qualification in food preparation and nutrition, which covers food provenance, sustainability, food security and GM crops. The project also highlights just what opportunities and careers are available in the UK’s largest industry for the pupils when they begin to make those important decisions about their future career choices.
Free Range Chickens and egg packing also part of tour
The food stories focus of this visit was beef and eggs and started at Robert Rook’s Weighton Wold Farm
Robert said: “It was originally a suggestion that we do more to educate young people about what actually goes in to producing food. People drive past all the time and see it’s a farm, but not many people are actually aware of what goes on ‘over the hedge’.”
Robert set out to do just that; thanks to Natural England funding, the farm has a specially adapted trailer and a classroom conversion which are used to deliver visits on a real working farm. Mark Thompson using his teaching and past farming experience has worked closely with Robert to introduce local schools to the visits as well as helping during the visits and via the Discovering Our Countryside website (www.discovering-our-countryside.co.uk ) providing learning aids and videos for use in school. Together Robert and mark try to provide a complete learning experience both at the farm and by bringing the farm yard into the classroom should the teachers wish.
During the farm section of the visit the pupils went on a “Cow Safari” safely seated in Robert’s special trailer they were driven into a field of beef cattle and their calves before seeing free range chickens, egg production and egg packing.
David Stamper, the school’s director of community, said: “These teenagers from Cape Town come from an inner city area where they often see shootings and muggings and they have not seen open space like this. While they’re here we wanted to show them our heritage and culture and this farm visit was perfect for teaching them about the East Riding.”
Enrico Hartman, one of the South African educators, described how his contingent of pupils live near farms that mainly grow grapes for wine, fruit and vegetables.
“There are very few livestock farms,” he said. “The farms around us usually grow only one crop or rear one type of animal and so seeing a mixed farm like this is very different for us.”
Wynne Kannemeyer, another South African educator, believed the trip had been eye-opening.
“It has helped the young people to have a connection between where their food comes from and what they buy in the supermarket,” he said.
Robert said: “We like to do these visits in a range of seasons so pupils can see everything from crops being planted and animals being born as well as the chickens which are here all year round.”
Students followed food chain to Drewton’s Farm Shop
The visit then moved to Drewton’s Farm Shop near South Cave. Proprietor Katie Taylor also has a passion for educating people about where their food comes from. Katie gave her visitors an insight into the roles of the different departments within Drewton’s Farm Shop and the way that food, drink, gifts and other items on sale are sourced from a network of more than 250 Yorkshire-based farmers, growers, suppliers and craftspeople.
Katie said: “Earlier in the day, our visitors had been to a farm where cattle are reared for beef and chickens produce eggs so that they could see the first step in the process of food production. When they came here, I explained how we work with farmers and growers to make their fresh, local produce available to the public so that they could see the next stage in the journey that our food makes from farm to fork.
“I think this is a wonderful initiative that will really help our young people to understand and connect with the countryside and agriculture, and, hopefully, help them to make informed decisions about the food they choose to buy as they get older.”
Sarah Bone of Headlands School said: “Working in true partnership with local businesses, this is an amazing opportunity for our students to have their horizons broadened, and their knowledge and understanding of the commercial business aspects of farming, food and drink enhanced. In addition, it’s a unique opportunity for children from our partner school in South Africa to create brilliant memories of life and work in the East Riding of Yorkshire – truly putting us on the global map! Thanks again to everyone for making this happen for our students.”
Mark said: “It’s been lovely having these children from an inner city South African school but the children from Headlands have also got a lot out of this visit. Farming and agriculture have such a lot to teach us about almost every area of learning that visits like this can help pupils of all ages.”
Hopefully, next time these children are driven past a farm they will think a lot more about what is actually going on ‘over the hedge’ and remember the links between the farm yard and their next meal as well as how they too could become part of this food producing chain…