Meet the East Riding farmers educating the children of Hull about where food really comes from

Bringing home the message about how food is produced and how farming is conducted will once again be the central themes when double decker buses from schools in East Yorkshire converge upon Driffield Showground next week.

The Schools Food and Farming Day run by Driffield Agricultural Society had become a regular in the farming calendar, supported by many of the region’s farmers, until pandemic restrictions took a hold for the past two years.

Gill Butler, chair of the society’s education committee and co-founder of the day that returns on Wednesday, is delighted it is set to return and said it plays a hugely important role.

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“The East Riding of Yorkshire has such a variety of farming and food production. I’m an ex-teacher and know what a day like this can mean to children from all areas including those who live in cities to those who live in villages.

Driffield Agricultural Society members who run the Schools Food and Farming Day

“Fifty per cent of the 1,600 schoolchildren from the upper key stage 2 age range of between nine to 11 years old will come from the city of Hull. Some who have been brought up in a city centre environment may never have had the opportunity of seeing a cow or see crops in fields.

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“Schoolchildren who you might expect to know a little more, because they are closer to the countryside, also don’t often understand the contribution that farmers make to the food they eat.

“We want schoolchildren and also teachers to be better informed about how food is produced and maybe they will be able to better inform their parents about what a piece of farm machinery they have seen is all about and how it brings about the bread you eat or the cereals at breakfast.”

Gill said the efforts made by everyone through the Driffield Agricultural Society are indicative of how strongly they feel in getting their message across.

“We are blessed with a huge range of farming sectors, wonderful farmers and food enterprises in this area and they all understand the value of these days in educating not just young people but everyone about food and farming.

“On Wednesday schoolchildren will have the chance to get up close with farm machinery such as combine harvesters, balers, pea viners and a multitude of harvest equipment and hear from real farmers, the people that operate the machines, about what they do, when they harvest, how they prepare to seed the next year’s crop and what those crops bring about in food and drink terms.

“Of course, everyone loves seeing animals too and we will have everything from dairy calves, beef calves, pigs, sheep, alpacas and goats here.

“Dairy farmer Peter Burdass of Harpham will be talking about milk from his St Quintin’s Dairy at nearby Harpham; Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream will be explaining how ice cream is produced from their dairy cows; David Albert will be bringing beef cattle from Kilham; Tom Richardson will be talking about Wagyu beef; the Copelands of Dunnington are bringing sheep; and goats are coming from Sledmere House’s rare breeds farm.”

David Tite, chief executive of Driffield Agricultural Society, said the Schools Food & Farming Day aims to bring to life the real farming world to schoolchildren.

“We want everyone to have a really good experience, listening to and also talking with real farmers and real food production people about how food is made and where it comes from.

“If we can send them back to their schools and their parents with maybe two or three points they have learned from being here then it has all been worthwhile.

“We are very fortunate to have so many exceptionally gifted farmers and food producers who are able to talk knowledgeably about their individual sectors, and everyone doing that realises the benefit it can have on how farming is viewed.”

David said the number of people and farming sectors involved shows just how much everyone cares about a better understanding.

“While the East Riding of Yorkshire has long been known for its arable crops, pig production and salad growing businesses, the variety of farming sectors within the area and innovative food enterprises based here is huge and we hope that every child learns something new.

“We want schoolchildren that come here to go away talking enthusiastically about the part played by farmers and processors in producing food.

“We have people like Stuart Bradshaw from Bradshaw’s Mill in Driffield who will be explaining the process of turning grain into flour; The Elliott family of Bewholme will talk about their Elliott’s Eggs business and Adam Palmer of Thixendale will talk about the importance of rapeseed oil for cooking. Guy Poskitt will explain about carrots and other root crops production.

Gill said this year’s return would see a slight change to the way in which the event has been managed in the past.

“In response to Covid measures we will not have any of the demonstrations in the Rix Pavilion or the Driffield Agricultural Society’s main building in the centre of the showground.

“All of the farm machinery will be outdoor as it has been on each occasion we have run the day and the rest will all either be outdoor too or held in large marquees. The society invested heavily in asphalt pads with electric hook-ups for caravans and that has proved useful for us in being able to ensure adequate social distancing is available.

“We have our fingers crossed it will be another gorgeous day, something we have been very fortunate with since we started in 2016. We have always had very positive feedback and schools keep coming back year after year.”

Gill said the day has lost none of its appeal after having been missing from the calendar for the past two years. “We are looking forward to another wonderful day of educating schoolchildren about food and farming once again.”