More than 20,000 schools have been contacted this week with information about the Year of Food and Farming, which kicks off in September and aims to stimulate children into thinking about where their food comes from.
Central to the cross-industry campaign is a new website www.yearoffoodandfarming.org.uk which will become a central “portal” for the farming and education sectors to co-ordinate their activities.
Farmers and other rural stakeholders are being urged to register their support for the campaign and indicate their areas of interest – for example whether they want to host a school visit, go into the classroom or take part in a local event.
School teachers, too, are being asked to register on the site, after which they will receive e-mail updates about what’s happening in their areas and will have access to a “resource bank” of educational material.
The data will also be used to produce a so-called interactive “Mega Map” in September, pinpointing each school that wants to take part and displaying volunteer’s material and events for the Year. “Teachers will be able to track down local initiatives using just a few clicks of the mouse,” say the organisers.
Year of Food and Farming director, Tony Cooke, said he was hoping large numbers of farmers would sign up, to offer children memorable, hands-on learning experiences throughout the Year.
“There are clear benefits for farmers,” he said. “In the short term you’ll get an appreciation of what the public’s issues with farming are and what their understanding is. You’ll also help children develop a healthy relationship with food, from which they will learn to value it more.”
Mr Cooke said recent research provided some encouragement that many children already had an interest in food and farming. “We’re pushing at an open door,” he said. But there was still a significant proportion – about a quarter – who had never been to the countryside and for whom food “does not even register on the radar”.
The Year of Food and Farming is being developed by Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) at Stoneleigh, with the backing of various government departments and producer levy bodies.