One of the most rewarding events on the WCAS calendar is our Farm Open Days which take place every two years. Schools across Cumbria and North Lancashire are invited to attend, whilst over 100 volunteers and demonstrators give their time to help make the Farm Open Day a truly memorable day of discovery for the children. With its beginnings in 2007, the Farm Open Day initiative aims to help youngsters explore the link between farming and the food that reaches their plate, whilst learning about the importance of agriculture and sustainable farming and food production.
Various stations are set up around the farm, with a mix of more traditional farming methods that are widely used; sheep shearing, sheep dog handling, poultry keeping skills as well as promoting the use of technology in farming by incorporating a veterinary lambing simulator, along with an automated sheep run and weigh cell. The children discover how dairy cows are milked, how the milk is processed and bottled, and have a go at milking ‘Clover’ our wooden dairy cow. Amongst all this of course, there’s a chance to get up close with the animals, holding day old chicks, feeding calves and meeting sheep and lambs.
WCAS understands that the future of farming lies with future generations, and with this in mind, the aim of the Farm Open Days is to inspire and educate these future generations to the agricultural landscape around them.
MORE than 1600 primary school pupils from Cumbria and North Lancashire recently attended farm open days hosted and funded by the Westmorland County Agricultural Society.
With a strong focus on educating the youngsters on many different aspects of the agricultural sector, the aim is to encourage and enthuse pupils to participate in the hands-on and informative activities.
The two open days, on Tuesday 25 June and Thursday 27 June, were held at the Mason Family’s Heaves Farm, near Kendal, for the 19th year, marking almost 30 years of open days hosted by the Society.
“We reached record numbers a few years ago and welcomed 1620 children in total across the two days,” said Christine Knipe, WCAS Chief Executive. “The day is all about education, encouraging children (and adults) to understand the link between farming and food, learning how foodstuffs are produced. That said, there is a lot of fun involved and we also provide some follow up educational ideas for the schools after their visit.
“Each school receives a goodie bag which includes a pencil for every pupil as well as leaflets and DVDs, with further links with a lot of the attending organisations to complete the visit.”
The 27 stations on the farm not only looked at the various aspects of milk production, including the milking parlour, silage, transport, calving and veterinary, but also sheep, pigs, poultry, sheep dogs, dry stone walling, spinning and knitting, and butchery. Most of these educational points were manned with experts who talked to the children to explain each particular aspect, while the unmanned stations included interactive games.
A new station this year was the grain table, highlighting the various grains grown in the UK which not only produce food to feed to livestock but also for human consumption.
Children were enthusiastic and participated throughout, eagerly answering the questions posed to them which highlighted the work put in by their teachers beforehand.
“We try to give hands on and tactile demonstrations and always aim to link the story to food as well as tell the dairy story in full,” added Mrs Knipe.
As part of the Society’s commitment to education, the open days cost in the region of £10,000, funded by monies raised at the annual Westmorland County Show – the largest one-day agricultural show in the country – each September. The Society provides free transport and completes the various risk assessments, making it as simple as possible for schools to attend.
Sincere thanks go to the Mason family, Roger, Carole and Gary, of Heaves Farm for hosting such an incredible event, which could not have been possible without the many members who volunteered their services as demonstrators, stewards and general helpers. Thank you to Massey Feeds & Yew Tree Dairy for donating a carton of milk for each child. Additionally, grateful thanks to the North West Farmers Trust who generously provided much valued sponsorship towards transportation costs.
Very well done to everyone involved – a hugely rewarding event.