Apply now for farm visit funding

Farmers in England who want to help more children learn about life on a farm are being invited to apply for funding by Natural England.

Environmental stewardship funding through the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) is available to help provide items to improve visitor access to farms ranging from kissing gates and benches to farm classrooms.

Successful applicants will also be eligible for an annual base payment and revenue payments for up to 25 educational visits a year.

There are currently more than 1,000 farmers in England supplementing their income by offering educational visits.

Ian Fugler, Natural England’s director of land management, said: “Opening the farm up to groups as an educational resource is a great opportunity for children to experience life on a farm, learn about wildlife, where their food comes from and how the land is managed.

“These visits can make a real difference, especially for children from urban areas who would not otherwise have the chance to visit the countryside or see how a working farm operates – this funding will enable more to follow in their footsteps.”

Exeter farmer Andy Bragg, of West Town Farm, said: “We’ve been running educational visits at the farm for years, and HLS educational access funding has helped us to fund these visits.

“It’s great to be able to show visitors around the farm and to help them experience that connection between themselves, their food and the countryside.

“However, the facilities here did need improving, so the capital grant fund has enabled us to build a classroom and toilet block, and to provide interpretation boards and a tractor-trailer. We hope this will open up the farm to many more people of all ages and help us to run even better visits.”

Natural England said the evidence of the demand for more educational visits to farms was clear.

Research shows 97% of teachers believe it is important for pupils to learn about the countryside in the National Curriculum – and 98% believe the countryside could play a greater role in cross-curricular learning.

Yet less than half of all children aged between five and 16 years old went on a school trip to the countryside in 2008, according to the study by the Countryside Alliance in 2009.

Farmers in HLS who can demonstrate the potential for their farms to host high-quality educational visits for school children or care farming clients should contact their local Natural England land management adviser by 30 June 2012 to apply for the funding.