Farmer Focus Arable: Nick Padwick teaches children about farming

Our “From Farm to Fork” educational visits to the farm are going from strength to strength.

Now in its sixth year and running at seven Co-operative Farms across the country, our name seems to have found its way onto many schools’ lists of places to visit. This success now sees some 20,000 children per year visiting the farms.

It is so rewarding to see children on their third or fourth visit, and to realise just how much information they have taken in and the way they now view the countryside with different eyes. The questions they ask prove that they thinking about and understand the countryside, and the link between farming and the food they eat.

If, by giving children access to the countryside and to basic cookery early on in their education, we can help them to make better lifestyle decisions, then this is a great investment.

I do sometimes wonder, when schools visit, if the teachers learn quite as much. Recently, I was alarmed to overhear a teacher seeming to contradict our message about food quality and provenance, while examining the quality of the packaging as if this was a better gauge.

This was enforced again by a group of children who were staying overnight on a residential trip. Part of the programme involves the children preparing their own tea; homemade burgers made with just mince, onion and herbs. The burgers, as you can imagine, are a little misshapen, and this was enough to make a number of children suddenly fancy the perfectly formed bought-in vegetarian option.

This just makes me more determined to get my message across to that you have to look beyond the visual appearance, packaging and marketing, and really understand what food quality is about. Simple, British and wholesome.

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