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1600 primary school students discover farming

More than 1600 primary school children experienced the sights, smells and sounds of a working farm last week, when the gates of Heaves Farm, Levens were opened to 40 primary schools from South Cumbria and North Lancashire on Tuesday 13 and Thursday 15th June.

Organisers of the event, Westmorland County Agricultural Society, worked closely with farm owners Roger, Carole and Gary Mason to deliver two fantastic days of discovery and learning for the students. This interactive event encouraged children to think about the origins of their food and how it is produced, whilst enjoying a great day on the working farm.

With 30 bases located around the farm, students and teachers could get involved in many aspects of agriculture, including sheep shearing, milking, butchery, poultry and planting vegetables. Westmorland County Agricultural Society Chief Executive Christine Knipe said “We didn’t shy away from the sometimes gritty reality of farming and the children always enjoy getting hands-on with the activities.”

The biennial Farm Open Day, now in its 26th year and eighth time at the Mason family’s farm saw a record 1620 students come onto farm. The event relies on more than 120 volunteers each day, who give up their time to talk to enthusiastic youngsters about the journey their food makes from farm to fork.

Local MP Tim Farron took time to thank all the volunteers and commented “Farming is key to our area – our traditions, our economy, our landscape and our food. Yet even in a rural area like ours, it can seem a long way away for many young people. These Farm Open Days are vital in helping pupils to understand our area and where their food comes from; they have been given a fantastic insight into the world of farming.”

As well as traditional methods of farming, the students were introduced to lambing simulators and ‘smart’ cow collars that assist with the welfare and management of dairy cows. Children were also turned into ‘sheep’ and were identified with electronic tags, then shepherded through a handling race, which proved a favourite amongst students, with many amazed at the increased use of technology in farming.

Christine explained “We wanted to give the children an insight into the breadth of opportunities in farming, and inspire them to perhaps consider a career in agriculture in the future.”

The event was supported by Muller Dairies, who supplied every student with a carton of milk, as well as backing from The North West Farmers Trust and Genus. Back in school, teachers were provided with farming-themed resources to help them bring the countryside into the classroom and continue to explore what they had learnt at Heaves Farm. With interest from local primary schools already gathering pace for the next Farm Open Day, it’s safe to say that the event proves ever more popular with students and teachers alike.

Rebecca Fearon
Westmorland County Agricultural Society Ltd
Lane Farm, Crooklands, Nr Milnthorpe , Cumbria, LA7 7NH
Tel: 015395 67804
email: manager@westmorland.org.uk
web: www.westmorlandshow.co.uk

Notes to Editor:

Farm Open Days 2017

Further information, in note form:

• Westmorland County Agricultural Society has been holding Farm Open Days every other year for over 20 years – like to think each one improves a little on the previous one!
• Primary Schools from throughout South Cumbria & North Lancashire are invited
• Every year the numbers increase: 2017 is a record year. Mix of urban & rural schools.
• Aim is to encourage children to explore the links between agriculture and food, learn how food is produced and where it comes from
• Schools are guide round the farm by Society volunteers
• The farm is split into bases, with an “expert” leading the activity and teaching the children about that particular area of farming
• Mixed learning methodologies – lots of opportunities to get involved first hand – touch the animals, plant their own veg etc
• Lots of demonstrations – Sheep shearing, sheepdog handling, butchery & poultry keeping
• Other activities include woodland walk, plus jigsaw wooden animals (designed & made by WCAS volunteer Paul Duckett)
• Over 100 WCAS volunteers each day to make event run
• WCAS provides all transport
• Each school receives a “goody bag” packed with resources to encourage & support teachers to take the message back to school & extend the learning beyond “a day on the farm
• WCAS funds whole event – 2017 received £2,000 sponsorship support from North West Farmers Trust – very much appreciated
• 2 WCAS short listed for BAYER/FACE award this year which recognises individuals or groups that ‘make an outstanding contribution to helping children learn about food, farming and the natural environment’
• WCAS gives complimentary attendance to the Westmorland County Show for organised school groups