Gallery: Children reconnect with farming and nature at School Farm and Country Fair

Thousands of schoolchildren from across Suffolk flock to Trinity Park in Ipswich for the popular School Farm and Country Fair Straight from the horses mouth as children visit the Suffolk Punch Stud display Thousands of schoolchildren from across Suffolk flock to Trinity Park in Ipswich for the popular School Farm and Country Fair Straight from the horses mouth as children visit the Suffolk Punch Stud display

Thursday, April 24, 2014
8:41 PM

A total of 4,000 children descended on Trinity Park in Ipswich yesterday for the 14th annual School Farm and Country Fair.

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This year’s show was the biggest yet with more than 90 exhibitors, 10 of them new, offering displays and activities as varied as kneading dough, beekeeping, yoghurt making, machinery, blacksmithing, foxhounds, sheep-shearing, and falconry.

Yesterday’s Fair was organised into nine distinct zones – Livestock and Farriery, Countryside, Displays, Food, Outdoor Exhibits, History, Safety, Modern Farming and Wildlife and Conservation.

It is just one part of a colossal effort by the Suffolk Agricultural Association to reconnect Suffolk’s children with their farming hinterland and educate them on how and where food is produced.

An example of how this works was provided by David Pettitt, SAA committee-member, farmer and vice-chair of governors at the Federation of Gislingham and Palgrave Schools.

He said: “Here we’ve had one child today from the school I’m stewarding who has never touched an animal before, so the challenge today supervising him is trying to get him a duckling to hold or one of the hounds or a cow.

“Some of the schools then will do follow up work when they get back. Last year Gislingham school came and their project over the summer term was farming and India, so not only looking at farming in the UK but farming in India.”

He added: “Generally we try to tie a farmer from a particular area with a school from that area when it comes and the Association will then offer a follow up if the school wants to have a farmer come into the school to talk to them, and if possible we try to keep the same farmer that stewarded them so there’s a direct link.”

One of the stewards, Julia Longe, escorted pupils from Gorseland Primary School in Martlesham around the Fair, having previously worked at the play schools.

“It’s nice to be back with the school again,” she said. “Some of my old pupils are here, I don’t recognise them but they come and tell me who they are.

“They’ve engaged enormously, they loved the foxhounds. They’re learning and have asked my questions.”

Jessica Brown, a teacher at Gorseland, described the Fair as “very, very interesting”.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, I’ve never been here before, but there’s lots to see and the children are really excited… all the people that are involved are very friendly and have all the answers and it’s very child-friendly.”

Kate, a pupil at the school, said: “I learnt that the sheep mummies are called ewes and the daddies are called rams and the little babies are called lambs.”

Taylor, a Year 4 at Oaks Primary School, said: “My favourite thing about today is when we got to see the chicks hatching because it was really cute. One tried to peck my hand.”

Peter Mortimer, a pig farmer from Metfield, brought some of his butchers pigs to display.

“It’s all about giving children the chance to actually handle pigs, especially the ones out of the towns,” he said. “The important thing is to tell the kids where their food is coming from.

“We get the feel-good factor and, you don’t know, there are some youngsters here who might want to come into the industry later in life.”

Craig Renton, waste advisor at Suffolk County Council, summed up the initiative when explaining his display about compost and how it is made.

“It’s just making children recognise that food is a resource,” he said.

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