Whilst having years of experience hosting primary schools and community groups, a secondary-school visit was something Sandra and Anthony from Whetstone Pastures Farm had never contemplated before until LEAF Education linked them up with Madeline Mesias and her Food Technology department at Higham Lane Academy School in Nuneaton.
Whetstone Pastures is a 600-acre mixed farm in South Leicestershire, has been in the Herbert family for over 100 years, and includes wheat, oilseed rape, field beans and pick-your-own fruit fields. However it was the farm’s dairy unit, run by Jimmy and Esther Pritt, and the possibility of seeing a large-scale milking parlour, that really interested Madeline and her GCSE Food Tech students:
'Food provenance is such a key part of the new GCSE and I particularly wanted the students to understand dairy and how cheese is made'.
The milk from Whetstone Pastures goes to make the world-famous, blue Stilton cheese called Long Clawson, samples of which were generously provided by Long Clawson Dairy Ltd and tasted by the 33 GCSE students. They also had the opportunity to see newly born calves and the milking parlour, followed by the chance to make homemade butter back at the farm’s Strawberry Cottage tea room, a converted rustic, old cottage once lived in by the stockman who kept cattle in the courtyard.
In addition to learning about the dairy, the students also had the opportunity to walk across the fruit fields and learn about how a wide variety of fruits such as strawberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries are cultivated, followed up with a fruit-crumble-making lesson and tasting session of ‘Sandra’s Jam’ which is sold in local shops and delis. Sky Duffey, one of the students, said:
'Seeing the calves up close was amazing, and making fruit crumbles and homemade butter was really fun!'
Visits to real working farms like this are essential for teenagers; today’s visit will stay in the memory of these young learners and enable them to remember key concepts much better for their forthcoming exams in June. The school and farm have now started a relationship which will see many repeat visits in the future, something that may not have happened without LEAF Education’s help:
'LEAF Education’s help has been imperative! Support from their Regional Education Consultant has enabled us to get out of the classroom; the whole process has been made much less stressful. Without help, finding suitable venues and activities directly related to our curriculum can be difficult and very time consuming.'
LEAF Education has a team of part-time, regional education consultants throughout England and Wales. All have a background in education. Find your local consultant here.