DEFRA backs ‘farm year’ for schools

DEFRA has given its backing to the idea of a Year of Farming and Food in schools in 2007/08 to help give children a better understanding of where their food comes from.

The idea is to give teachers a framework so they can incorporate agricultural issues into all parts of the national curriculum. A similar idea was implemented in the 1980s to help boost students’ understanding of industry.

The idea of a “farming year” was first raised this spring by the Farming and Countryside Education charity (FACE), which suggested it would help children reconnect with agriculture and the countryside.

DEFRA’s support for the initiative was announced this week as education secretary Alan Johnson revealed he was making 240m available to improve school dinners, train more school cooks and give secondary school pupils the chance to take cookery lessons.

It also emerged that DEFRA has been tasked with increasing the opportunities for small and local producers to supply schools.

Farmers and growers will be encouraged to set up consortia to provide fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat either directly or via wholesalers and other primary suppliers.

“On a practical front, we could also look to break contracts into smaller chunks or lots, which will increase opportunities for local producers and suppliers to tender for contracts,” said a DEFRA spokesman.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, praised the government for showing a joined-up approach to transforming school meals and attitudes to food.

“We are particularly pleased with the focus on training cooks and the commitment to help more local and organic farm businesses to supply schools,” he said.

Bill Graham, FACE head of education, described a Year of Farming and Food as a one-off opportunity to win the hearts and minds of young people. “We are currently devising the key messages we want to get across.”

Do you feel that a ‘farm year’ would be effective in teaching children about where their food comes from. Get in touch to discuss this and other farming issues on our forum page.