Day 6 – Educating Durham!

We have been offering school and educational visits with a difference for over 20 years and in that time have welcomed over 50,000 children on to the farm. Together with the Sir Tom Cowie Charitable Foundation and the Country Trust as well as the Soil Association we have hosted visits from schools across the North East, from Acklam to Byker, Roker and Hexham and from as far afield as Greenock and Harrogate.  We do love to have our local schools here and this Spring we are welcoming schools from Sacriston, Langley Park, Belmont and Chester-le-Street.

Our aim is to get children on to the farms for some outdoor education – to learn about farming in the 21st century, and discover the relationship between the countryside and their food. It’s a very rewarding part of what we do here, from children wondering why one egg is white and another speckled brown to seeing the change in seasons to hearing the “ewww it stinks” when they arrive to the grinning faces getting back on the bus at the end of the day, having completely forgotten about the smells and happily covered in mud after an afternoon in the Forest Adventure.  As Professor Inman of Exeter University said to me today, our recent generations have become urbanised and disconnected from the countryside and we as farmers have equally distanced ourselves from the public.  It’s important that we do our best to make that re-connection and help children and adults alike understand and appreciate the journey that their food has been on. 

I used to spend time creating quizzes and issuing clipboards but with Ruth helping me and now Joanne and her team we’ve come to learn that it’s far more important for children to soak up their countryside surroundings and learn to look, listen and touch the leaves, trees, birds and animals they are introduced to.  The value of being able to see the whole field to fork experience should not be underestimated.  And whilst many a young teacher will shy away from looking at the pig carcasses hanging in the fridge, making this connection is so vital and the children really do find it really interesting looking at the anatomy and thinking about the context of where their food comes from.  So the farm shop and school visits go hand in hand. 

School visits have also been a fantastic way of spreading the word about Broom House. Children & teachers will often buy some sausages from the shop at the end of their day… returning with their family a few weeks later to stock up on some more goodies and have a visit to the Forest Adventure!