On Wednesday February 6, HRH the Countess of Wessex met students from local schools, who had gathered at Lords Plain Farm to participate in a day filled with educational activities relating to dairy farming.
David and Louise Martin played hosts at their Levens dairy farm.
Members of the Westmorland Agricultural Society, geneticists, nutritionists, vets and experts from the farming community were on hand to give talks and run workshops for more than 60 pupils. The secondary school and A level students from Ullswater High, Kirkby Kendal High and Dallam High were split into groups to tour the farm, stopping at different stations to meet the experts and discover how a mix of nutrition and animal welfare leads to an integrated approach in food production, with particular emphasis on milk and dairy foods.
Katy Pallas of Leaf Education, who had helped organise the educational event, urged the students to ask difficult questions of the members of the Westmorland Agricultural Society that included sheep, beef and dairy farmers, vets, feed experts and an expert in bull semen.
“We are fortunate to have so many knowledgeable farmers, geneticists and nutritionists in one place, so please pick their brains and interrogate them,” she urged the students. “Don’t worry if you are not from a farming family or you don’t know the right terms to use, there are no stupid questions.”
For 16 years Katy Pallas has worked closely with the society and local farmers to forge links and devise educational programmes for schools and colleges.
Activities also included finding out about the many wide and varied careers linked farming. Some were obvious, such as being a dairy farmer producing milk and cream. Other less obvious careers ranged from yoghurt, butter and cheese makers to jobs in marketing, ethical audits, and nutrition. Some pupils expressed an interest in finding out about careers in the equestrian world and different types of jobs working in a veterinarian practice.
From traditional farming methods, to the introduction of new technologies, the students were encouraged to get hands on in a variety of workshops and talks.
Chief executive of the Westmorland Agricultural Society, Christine Knipe, gave Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex a tour of the farm and introduced her to the members, stewards and the judges of the Silage Competition. The countess was keen to talk to some of the students, who were busy learning about animal welfare, surrounded by the large herd in the cowshed.
“It’s lovely to see the young people here able to ask questions and, if they are not sure about farming, there are so many other related jobs in food processing and marketing,” said the countess. “Ask a thirteen-year-old what they want to be and they won’t have an answer, but they will say they are concerned about the future, animal welfare and healthy eating.”
“There’s so much to see on a working farm and to be able to point out there are thousands of ways to be involved in a struggling industry that needs scientists as well as people wanting to look after animals.”