In this blog post, Future Farmer Charlotte Middlebrook explains why farmers should consider taking part in Farmer Time.
Coming from an agricultural background and having a full-time career as a teacher has made me extremely passionate about, and very much aware of, how vital it is to educate young people about where their food comes from.
It has also made me acutely aware of the role farmers can play in offering these valuable learning experiences.
My background means I am uniquely positioned to promote education and initiatives such as the in-demand Farmer Time in my role on the Future Farmers of Yorkshire Management Board, and perhaps now more than ever.
As a primary school teacher, I have delivered various agricultural education projects with the help of local farmers, businesses and organisations such as the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and the NFU over the years, but the Covid-19 pandemic has put many such educational visits or visitors on hold.
Here’s where Farmer Time comes in…
Farmer Time is a fantastic free initiative founded by farmer Tom Martin, co-ordinated by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) and supported by the Future Farmers of Yorkshire to bring farm visits to the classroom by matching farmers with schools.
Any farmer can participate and the more diverse the range of farms that connect the better.
Many of us who work or live in and around agriculture can easily take everyday experiences for granted, yet for many children (and teachers) life on the other side of the farm gate is fascinating and novel.
I remember myself how at the age of six, a school trip to my grandparents’ farm created memories and experiences that have remained with many of my school peers as they have grown up.
I’m confident this is the same for the majority of children who experience Farmer Time.
What’s more, by positively promoting modern agriculture and the diverse skills it requires, we may just inspire the next generation to consider a future in agriculture too.
More farmers are needed
It’s really encouraging how popular these virtual farm visits are proving.
Last year, farmers and schools connected for a total of 10,800 learning hours and there is now an extensive waiting list of schools desperate to be matched up with farmers.
If you are thinking about taking part but you are concerned about the time commitment or public speaking, be assured that the average Farmer Time call lasts just 18 minutes, once a fortnight.
They can be done from a tractor cab, whilst walking around the farm or even from the milking parlour, and all without the Health and Safety assessments that would be required for a school trip to your farm.
Striking the right tone
Children can lead the conversation with their questions, or farmers can link to the curriculum with the help of teachers.
Doing so can be really simple by including real-life examples of problem-solving and application of new scientific or technological developments.
Just remember the age of your audience and what is appropriate on your farm to share with them.
Future Farmers such as pig farmer Kate Moore and arable farmer Oliver Mackintosh have found Farmer Time an easy, powerful and extremely rewarding way to connect with the next generation.
With 35 Yorkshire farmers already signed up and an ever-increasing waiting list of schools, now is the time for more farmers to join up to this brilliant initiative.
You can find out more and sign up at www.farmertime.org