Down on the farm – guest blog from Royal Highland Education Trust
Guest blog from Sara Smith, Learning and Development Co-ordinator at the Royal Highland Education Trust
Throughout the year, come rain or shine, farmers open their gates to provide young people with the opportunity to find out about food production. The charity The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) works with farmers and growers across Scotland to engage schools and provide first-hand experiences of farming, food production and life in the countryside.
Young people have the opportunity to visit a wide range of farms from upland sheep farms and dairy units through to Brussels sprouts growers and everything in between. Visiting a local farm with all the sights and smells of food production in action provides lifelong memories.
We all need to eat, and understanding where food comes from is vitally important. In order to make sustainable food choices in life, we need to have information on which to base these choices. The wide range of information out there can be biased and overwhelming and a farm visit can help clarify food production questions young people may have. Visits also touch on concepts like seasonality and food miles, which can be followed up back in the classroom.
Scotland is working towards becoming a Good Food Nation and is signed up to the 17 sustainability goals. Food production underpins several of these goals, including good health and life on land. Farm visits can help bring these goals to life and who better to hear from than the person growing or rearing that food?
A visit to a real working farm is a great example of sustainable learning. There are so many opportunities to engage on the farm, from seeing dairy cows being milked, identifying crops growing in the fields, smelling the silage the cows eat, or touching harvested wheat – the list goes on.
Seeing young people on a farm, shows how valuable these experiences are. They are excited and ask questions you would never get coming forward in the classroom setting. All the senses are engaged and for some it will be the first time they have visited a farm or even put on a pair of welly boots!
A farm visit is much more than a day out – it is a learning experience covering food production, health and wellbeing, biodiversity, land management and of course, a great example of outdoor learning – and this invaluable learning experience is one that all young people should have access too.
The Scottish Government’s Learning for Sustainability – Vision 2030+ Action Plan provides a framework to increase the amount of learning time spent on sustainable skills.