Tom Martin in oilseed rape cropCambridgeshire farmer Tom Martin took part in the pilot FaceTime A Farmer project

Farmers who want to do their bit to promote British agriculture are encouraged to get involved in “FaceTime a Farmer” – a project teaching schoolchildren about farming, food and the environment.

The idea, started by Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Martin, involves using FaceTime or Skype to make short, regular video calls to a classroom of schoolchildren to feed their understanding and enthusiasm for agriculture and the countryside.

Following a successful pilot test with Mr Martin, the project is now backed by recently merged charities Linking Environment And Farming (Leaf) and Farming and Countryside Education (Face) to help get more farmers involved and team them with schools across the UK.

See also: 8 great reasons to get a job in agriculture

“It started with me posting a video on my Facebook page about a year ago as I was standing in an oilseed rape crop.

“I asked if anybody knew of any teachers who would be interested in linking up with me via FaceTime at their schools,” says Mr Martin.

“I got hundreds of likes, shares and comments from people who were tagging their friends in the post and encouraging schools to get involved. It was incredible.

“I had schools as far afield as India getting in touch with me.”

Using his smartphone, Mr Martin makes video calls from around his farm to an urban state-school classroom in East Sussex twice a month to update the children on what’s been happening and answer their questions.

The charities Leaf and Face are collaborating to help drum up interest and organise farmers and teachers to make the process simple and create an engaging experience for young people.

How FaceTime a Farmer works

  1. Email Farming and Countryside Education to register your interest.
  2. Once a school has been found to work with you, a designated teacher will email you a week before the planned video call to either provide questions from their students to answer or to discuss areas of teaching that might relate to food, farming or the environment.
  3. You will then be able to talk to the class over Skype or FaceTime at the arranged time, from any location on farm – a field, shed, tractor or the farm office, for example.
  4. Ideally, this would be a 10-20 minute call made as regularly as once a week – but this can be a flexible arrangement depending on your workload and the time of year. 

The plan is to kickstart this initiative in the spring term of 2018. Once Leaf/Face confirm the details of interested schools, farmers and classes will be paired up to begin planning video calls.

For more information, see the Leaf/Face factsheet (PDF).