How we can inspire children about farming – Allister Nixon

Allister Nixon CEO of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society

In this blog post, Yorkshire Agricultural Society CEO Allister Nixon explains how the Society strives to inspire the next generation about British agriculture.

Every so often the results of a new survey suggest that shocking numbers of children have never heard a sheep ‘baaa’ and that they think milk originates from supermarket shelves instead of a cow.

The message is that an increasingly urban population is disconnected from the land and food production. This may be very gloomy, but it is surely a situation that cannot last.

The next generation is better informed than ever before about the sustainability challenges the world faces.

Our focus as a global community is increasingly falling on the natural world and how we interact with it, and this includes how we produce food.

Farming’s exposure is growing

Indeed, opportunities to engage with where our food comes from and how the land is managed are now so many.

From mainstream TV programming, a plethora of farm attractions and the Open Farm Sunday movement, to dedicated TikTok and YouTube channels showcasing farming lives, and events offered by organisations and charities such as the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

All of this creates a platform, perhaps like never before, to engage with new generations in all things farming, food and the countryside.

This is something that the Society is dedicated to, providing opportunities for young people to engage in educational activities in fun and interactive ways.

Inspiring new generations

We seek to inspire and enthuse young people in Yorkshire about the countryside in various ways.

For example, each year we hold a veg box growing competition for primary schools. The theme for 2023 is Nutritious Delicious and 22 schools from across the region have signed up to get their children growing. The results will be showcased at the Great Yorkshire Show this summer to our 140,000 visitors.

Our new ‘My Great Yorkshire Countryside Competition’ launched this week and challenges schoolchildren of all ages to produce a piece of creative artwork or literature for the Great Yorkshire Show to celebrate what they love about the countryside.

These competitions are simple concepts, but they aim to stimulate classroom learning, fire imaginations, and provide fun entry points into topics that may just develop into lifelong passions.

Showground activities provide opportunities

We reinforce these messages in other ways too. Next month at the Great Yorkshire Showground, primary school staff can benefit from free training courses.

These one-day sessions focus on different curriculum topics and equip school staff with new ideas and hone their skills to take learning outdoors. Empowering just one teacher can bring benefits to hundreds of schoolchildren.

As many as 6,000 schoolchildren attend our Countryside Days at the Showground on 13-14th June and it is a joy to behold.

Free school bookings are now being taken for this event which gives children a wonderful experience of meeting farm animals and getting hands-on at interactive workshops that celebrate all things farming, food and the countryside.

Last week, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society attended an apprenticeships and careers fair at York Racecourse.

It was a great chance to speak to older children about agricultural careers and to explain how the Society offers support to those who enter the industry to promote their personal and professional development.

The platform and the challenge is there for British agriculture, as an exciting, innovative and crucial industry to sustain a focus on food production and to inspire new generations with its stories and opportunities.

Find out more about all of the educational opportunities and activities provided by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, here.

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Dr Hannah Fraser