In this latest blog post, primary school teacher and Future Farmer, Charlotte Middlebrook, explains why life lessons in appreciating the great outdoors should start at an early age.
Growing up on two mixed family farms near Selby, south of York, with experiences in dairy, beef, poultry, arable and even mushroom compost production and a farm holiday accommodation business, all alongside being a primary school teacher, has made me no stranger to hard work, animals, children or muck!
Furthermore, experiencing Canadian agriculture and gaining scholarships to the Oxford Farming and NFU Conferences through the National Federation of Young Farmers, have increased my passion for educating consumers about the hard work and high standards involved in British food production, which are too often undervalued and misunderstood.
Previously, I have delivered agricultural education projects in collaboration with different organisations, such as the National Farmers Union, Yorkshire Agricultural Society and Stockbridge Technology Centre, and this year organised an ‘Outdoors Week’ for each term in our school. These have involved tractors, farm invention competitions, precision farming demonstrations, visits from a local farm shop, the NFU Discovery Barn and hatching real chicks – all broadcast on BBC Radio York’s ‘God’s Own Countryfile’.
Having previously attended the Future Farmers Debates, I was delighted to be invited to join the management board in January to focus on Next Generation and Education in Agriculture. Until this meeting, I was unaware of the amount and range of fantastic projects that Future Farmers undertakes and I am really excited to be part of the team to develop these further.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has postponed many of these plans, including the fantastic Great Yorkshire Show, a highlight of the rural calendar.
However, Future Farmers can publicise the agricultural community’s vital role in sustaining food production for the country during lockdown, which the government seem to continuously overlook, proven again by their unsatisfactory proposals in the new Agriculture Bill.
‘Panic buying’ and mass baking have had an immediate impact on the food industry. A surge in demand for eggs has been witnessed first-hand on my grandparents’ farm, which supplies many local farm shops, whilst accessing packaging has also been an issue.
Meanwhile, many dairy farmers have experienced a drop in the milk price due to lack of demand from the catering sector.
From an educational perspective, the stark change to social distance teaching key workers’ children in school and providing home learning for the rest, means that outdoor learning is now more important than ever for children’s physical and mental wellbeing.
One of the best solutions to enforcing social distancing and manage the potential risks to staff, children and their families if schools re-open on 1st June, may be to conduct as much learning as possible outdoors, particularly for those children who cannot access this facility at home.
In summary, seeing the current popularity of purchasing local produce at a farm shop drive-thru, makes me wonder what will happen post-lockdown.
Will these consumers remain loyal to local produce or revert to their previous shopping habits? What does the farming and food industry need to do to better connect the consumer with the value of UK produced food and how can Future Farmers play a part in this?
Personally, I think consumers need to be educated about how the high standards of British food production affect its value and this needs to be achieved from childhood onwards. Watch this space!
- Future Farmers of Yorkshire was launched in 2010 to bring together like-minded farmers, vets and industry professionals. It is supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. Do keep in touch with Future Farmers, during these uncertain times; we are here to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org