Thousands of Essex schoolchildren enjoy food and farming day

Takeley Primary School pupils Ashleigh Murphy and Charlotte Spicer try the sausages.

Takeley Primary School pupils Ashleigh Murphy and Charlotte Spicer try the sausages. - Credit: Archant

More than 3,000 Essex schoolchildren visited Writtle College for a hands-on, senses-stoked experience of the countryside.

For many of the pupils – including those from Takeley Primary School who attended – it was their first experience of farm life, giving them an opportunity to see livestock up-close, hear the roar of a combine harvester and taste farm produce after learning of its journey from field to fork.

The interactive event – in its seventh year – was organised by Essex Agricultural Society in partnership with the college and Essex County Council.

Dr Stephen Waite, Writtle College principal, said: “The Essex Schools Food and Farming Day has been a fantastic showcase of the role of farming in our daily lives and the importance of the countryside.

“Writtle College is very proud to host the event and it’s been wonderful to see the thousands of children get involved and engage with the exhibits here - and to hear the laughter and excitement at the different zones.”

Karen Watson, Essex Agricultural Society school liaison officer, said: “It’s been another successful year and the weather has obviously helped. We had a full turnout, with 3,000 children here and many of the exhibitors have said it has been the best year yet!

“Feedback from schools is given post-event but there have been some very happy, smiley faces going around the showground. There have been a wide variety of exhibits so the message of where our food comes from and the Essex countryside has been told today.”

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The event was split into a farm trail around five zones – machinery, crops, livestock, countryside and environment and food. Each zone encompassed a key element of the food and farming story with fun, interactive exhibits provided by mainly Essex organisations and businesses featuring hands-on activities like tasting local produce; identifying vegetables, fruits and seeds; a sheep-shearing demonstration; meeting a cow and her calf; seeing how sausages are made; discovering where flour comes from and seeing how farm machinery has developed over the years with a showcase of farm machinery.

The day involved 300 farmers and Writtle College staff with 500 teachers and assistants visiting with the schoolchildren. Volunteer stewards guided small groups of the eight to 11-year-olds through the various activities, giving pupils direct contact with members of the local food and farming community.

Priti Patel MP was among the VIPs who attended the event. She visited the zones with a school in her constituency, Powers Hall Academy, Witham.

She said: “This is a truly magical event for children from across the county to attend and learn about food and farming. The day provides a real insight into the production of food as well as the important role that farming and agriculture have on the countryside and our environment. I would like to thank everyone

involved in the organisation of this very valuable educational day and I urge as many schools as possible to sign up for the day again in 2015.”

Antonia Woodward, teacher at Takeley Primary School, said: “This has been a very enjoyable and interesting event. We are a gold Food for Life school which is all about knowing where food comes from, food miles, making healthy choices, how we keep ourselves healthy, so we grow our own fruit and veg at school, produce compost and have bees at the school to make our own honey. The event links in with this and, because it is hands on, the children learn by doing.”