Healthy eating and highlighting the field to fork journey is an important message for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and promoting this to the next generation is vital.
One of the ways we do this is to run a Vegetable Box competition every year, with the finals judged and the winner announced at the Great Yorkshire Show in July.
The competition really gets children understanding more about how we grow food and where their food comes from. It also encourages them to eat the vegetables that they are growing. A child who has never eaten vegetables is more likely to eat it if they have watched it grow.
Over the last few weeks, we have sent out wooden veg boxes (a metre square) to newly participating schools across Yorkshire while those who have competed previously will use their existing ones.
Gardening suppliers Mr Fothergill’s provide vegetable seeds which we have now sent out to all 24 participating schools and Bulrush provides compost.
The planting starts now and children keep diaries to record what they have learned each week, showing how their entry progresses during the project and how they achieve the final result.
All the diaries and boxes are then viewed in the preliminary judging round in June, by representatives from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society. The judges visit each school discussing the project with the children involved and finding out about their ideas.
There are then 12 finalists whose boxes go on display at the Great Yorkshire Show and a winner is announced in the Garden Show Marquee before all the pupils who attend on the day. We usually have more than 100 children attending to see their boxes in situ at the Show where they are displayed throughout the three days.
Last year’s topic was on the theme of birthdays to mark the 160th Show and the winning school was Richard Taylor Primary School from Bilton, Harrogate, who were recognised for their knowledge and understanding of growing, their planting design and the range of colourful plants used.
This year the theme is Field to Fork and we look forward to seeing how each school interprets this within their planting.
This is a popular competition and it’s terrific to see the enthusiasm from the children taking part as they battle it out to lift the shield on the Wednesday of the Show.
The boxes are then returned to the schools so pupils can continue their growing projects throughout the year, with the winning school being given gardening vouchers as well as a trophy.
A project like this promotes a wide range of cross-curricular learning and we hope that by inspiring children and teachers to try growing their own veg, it can then become part of their teaching and learning in future years. It also highlights the significant part farmers play in the field to fork process, furthering our agricultural message to the next generation.