Since its early beginnings on Farmer Tom’s farm in Cambridgeshire, the exciting FaceTime a Farmer initiative has continued to gather in momentum and popularity resulting in, one year on, over 170 teacher and farmer pairings across the UK.
Children across the UK are benefitting from this simple to set up yet very effective project allowing them to not only see beyond the farm gate but also gain a developing understanding of where the food on their plate comes from. Farmers from many agricultural specialisms are participating including not only dairy, sheep, beef, arable, pig, poultry and eggs but also farmers from the cut flowers and herbs industry and fish farming. This diverse mix is resulting in excellent conversations within the classroom between the farmer and the children that promotes effective learning.
Classes of children from both primary and secondary schools have been signed up to participate with some schools requesting a matched farmer for every class.
Rebecca Bye, an Early Year’s teacher at Langley Park Primary Academy, part of Leigh Academies Trust, in Kent commented that, “After each weekly session the children always come back to class with a real buzz, desperate to tell their friends about what they saw and what new things they have learnt. I've realised how mature our children can be when discussing the eating of animals but also how they genuinely care about seeing crops and animals grow. It has been a fascinating journey and we're so happy with the learning opportunities and experiences the children are having because of it”
In addition to the impact that we are seeing on children’s understanding of Farm to Fork, it is evident that in secondary schools the children participating are also being exposed to the career opportunities available within the agricultural industry that they would have previously been unknown to them.
Sam McCrae, Head of Animal Care education provision at Bebington High Sports College on the Wirral commented, “It opened the minds of our students to the possible future career prospects that they would have never considered previously.” This was supported by her paired poultry farmer, Chris Chater who stated “It’s been great talking to the children - some of them will become our farmers of the future. We are seeing numbers of farmers decline over time and the only way for us to safeguard the future of food production is to open our doors and educate the next generation.”
Overall, one year on, FaceTime a Farmer continues to go from strength to strength, harnessing the power of digital communications to inspire, engage and educate young people about not only the journey from farm to fork but also the ever changing, diverse agricultural industry.
Ian Collison, one of the participating farmers specialising in cut flowers, perfectly sums up the impact of the project so far by stating, “What better way to communicate with the next generation of consumers than to go live into their classroom. Children are so used to tech these days that FaceTime is very natural for them and it offers a window on to a world that most of them would never see otherwise. We hear a lot in the media about the disconnect between children and the outdoor world, but the natural curiosity and inquisitiveness of children means that initiatives such as this can be a crucial first step in reconnecting children agriculture. As an industry we need to engage them as the consumers and the employees of tomorrow.”
If you wish to be part of this exciting project then further information about this initiative and how your school or farm can become involved can be found at www.leafuk.org/facetimeafarmer
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