17 November 2000

Put farming on the school timetable

CALLS for food and farming issues to get greater prominence in schools came at the Womens Food and Farming Unions agm.

Such a move is needed if the "huge gulf in understanding" between town and country is to be bridged, says WFU chairman Janet Godfrey (right).

"Historically, it wasnt necessary because everyone was only one step away from the countryside. Now, 80% of the population are so divorced from it, they dont understand there is any relationship between food and the countryside and the way that countryside looks.

"A major problem is that teachers dont understand it themselves," says Mrs Godfrey. "Their image of the countryside is dictated by the story books."

The National Council of Women is backing the call, lobbying government to reinstate food as a compulsory field of study at the next national curriculum review.

The move also has the support of National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs. "As an industry, we have done a very poor job of telling the world what a good job we are doing," says NFYFC chairman Mark Spencer.

And farm visits, he says, have a vital role to play in this. "Its important that we give schoolchildren a positive image of agriculture before someone comes along with a negative view – that way, hopefully, they can dismiss the negative based on their own experience."