All the fun of the farm

Published: Saturday 30th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Modern children’s lives have changed so much that one in three of them has never even heard a cow moo – except perhaps on the computer or TV.

Instead of going outside and enjoying all that nature has to offer, research has found that today’s kids would rather stay indoors and watch TV or play computer games. And cow noises aside, the survey by the green farming charity LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) discovered that only one in 10 have witnessed a lamb being born, while just 29% have seen a cow being milked.

What’s more, many children have no idea where their food comes from, apart from a supermarket – large numbers of young people (55%) don’t know British farms grow cauliflower, apples (35%) or carrots (39%).

Such gaps in experience and knowledge are part of the reason why LEAF will be holding Open Farm Sunday, when nearly 400 farms nationwide host open days, on June 7.

Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday manager at LEAF, says: “Engaging with nature is important to children’s education and wellbeing, which is why LEAF is calling on families to take advantage of some fresh air and visit a farm for Open Farm Sunday.

“It’s staggering how many children don’t know where their food comes from – they don’t know that potatoes are grown in the ground, and they think milk comes from a supermarket because so many of them live in urban areas and they see food in shops and don’t think about how it got there. Open Farm Sunday will show them where their food comes from, and help them value the food they eat.”

LEAF research has also found that the previous generation enjoyed 30% more time in the fresh air per week than their offspring, and according to Shackleton: “By spending less time outside than their parents did, children are missing out on some simple pleasures and benefits. Research shows that exposure to woodlands and green space is good for both mental and physical health, and a trip to a farm is a good place to start.”

Farms taking part in the open day are offering a variety of opportunities for families, including talks, kids’ fun, demonstrations and tours. Activities range from farm walks and machinery displays to sheep shearing and milking demonstrations, and events are free.

LEAF research also found that seven in 10 children have never gone pond dipping or searched for frogspawn, and less than half (45%) have been on a nature trail.

“Many farms opening for Open Farm Sunday will be offering exactly the simple type of outdoor activities that can connect children and adults to nature, and are great fun to do as well,” Shackleton points out. “You never know, you might even get to see a lamb being born or hear a cow moo.”

Open Farm Sunday has been held every year since 2006. Last year, 375 farms opened and more than 200,000 people – of which half were children – visited a farm.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for families to find out how their food is produced, and meet the farmers who produce it,” says Shackleton. “If children do have experience of a farm, it’s usually a petting farm or a school visit to a farm, but where Open Farm Sunday is quite unique is that it’s the chance for the whole family to see what really happens.”

Around 40% of the farms who participated in Open Farm Sunday last year held tractor trailer rides, and some even organised cooking demonstrations.

Shackleton says many of us don’t realise the huge amount of technology and science behind farming. “There are so many people out there who just don’t know what’s going on in the countryside – and that’s not just people who live in towns and cities. Many people who live in rural areas don’t know what farmers do either,” she adds.

“Farmers will be able to tell the public about the fabulous job they do, and the dedication and passion they put into their farming. It really is a fantastic opportunity for them to showcase what a great industry British farming is, and an equally great opportunity for families to find out more about British food and farming. We’re really keen for people to appreciate the work that goes into producing our food, and to support British farmers.”

:: To find your nearest participating farm, visit

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Saturday 30th May 2015 by The News Editor

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