The FACE Annual Meeting 2015 was hosted by Jordans Mill, a beautiful setting in the Bedfordshire countryside.
Supported with funding from the EDGE partnership and Bright Crop, the event attracted almost 60 delegates who were able to hear a number of thought provoking presentations before taking part in workshops to analyse the new proposed FACE strategy for 2016-21.
For biographies of the speakers on the day see here
Our guest speaker, Dimitri Houtart, began by saying that FACE and the BBC shared a common aim: that to be successful each needed to educate, inform and entertain.
He explained that his role involved promoting rural affairs right across the BBC: issues affecting rural communities needed promoting to a wider public. He felt strongly that rural programming should not be just for farmers but must have general appeal. He stressed that Farming Today had an audience of 1.2 million which was more than Newsnight and that the 250-300,000 farmers in the UK represented only a small minority of the audience.
Dimitri continued that it is crucial to inform the wider public about how food is produced and the countryside is looked after and that FACE shares this aim but has a different audience, concentrating on children and young people.
“Farmers are the new TV chefs” as food production features more prominently in a wider public consciousness since the horsemeat scandal. Many people are keen to learn about where their food comes from and FACE plays a vital role in engaging schools with issues such as environmental management, food miles and carbon footprint.
Dimitri went on to highlight four topics he wanted to address.
- Subsidies. Many people have a distorted view of agriculture and food production and have grown up with cheap food so they do not understand the true cost. Public expectation is for this situation to continue so children start with this misconception about the value of food which is a challenge for FACE.
- Access. The skills shortage is a growing dilemma in the farming and allied industries. There is still a tendency for entrants to college courses to come from farming families and we need to entice those who have never considered a career in this sector. A recent survey by Sainsbury's showed that 80% of those young people interviewed would not consider this area for a career. Dimitri said that access to land was a red herring, although it was a hurdle for some not to have access to land, it was an outdated concept and not an issue for many because of the wide range of roles in the industry that were not land based (technicians, software developers, marketeers etc.) The industry needed to portray itself as forward facing, exciting and modern.
- Sustainability. Dimitri felt this was a bigger challenge as no answers seemed evident. He said a large part of the industry was keeping its head in the sand. A third of global emissions emanated from farming activity and in the UK air pollution has been deemed the second highest cause of premature mortality. With the need to feed over 9 billion on the planet by the middle of the century, a solution has to be found. FACE has a very important job to do in preparing the next generation for the debate to save the planet.
- Storytelling. This remains a very important way of passing on information and a great way to interact with any audience. It is an important part of what FACE does. Dimitri quoted Liz Truss, Secretary of Ste, who the previous week had said that the next generation should be more connected with food and farming so that the sector became "as prestigious as medicine." But simultaneously, the Department for Education was removing vocational landbased courses from school league tables which did not promote this same message.
Dimitri commended the new Countryside Classroom initiative which is promoting partnership working to help teachers access resources and places to visit. The current public appetite is a great opportunity for FACE and we can make a real difference by engaging young people in debate. By educating, informing and entertaining we can help to save the planet.
Dan Corlett highlighted FACE’s achievements during the past year.
$11. Bright Crop had been part of the FACE family for over two years and with Katie Garner as manager the project had a solid strategy and a new direction. With the National Federation of Young Farmers and other sponsors Bright Crop had attended the Big Bang Fair in order to be seen on a main platform attracting 70-80,000 young people and 100s of teachers. In addition, Bright Crop now had a network of over 300 ambassadors and was soon to appoint a new team member.
$1. In partnership with the NFU, the immensely popular Why Farming Matters Primary Education Pack has been updated with even more activities that explore the vital role of farming in our lives. The new edition features a downloadable resource pack, plus an accompanying website with further activities and guidance and a range of videos and image cards to support pupil learning. The resource had been launched by Liz Truss the previous week.
$1. Lunchbox Science was an exciting development with the SAW Trust about which a later presentation was being made.
$1. Teacher training and initial teacher training were seen as very important developments by FACE. As Dimitri had indicated, there was now more than one generation disconnected from their food and teachers needed their confidence building in areas of food and farming so that they could incorporate these topics into their teaching. FACE had conducted an impact study which had highlighted the success of its training programmes, showing that 91% of newly qualified teachers who had attended a FACE course were already using food and farming topics in the classroom. Further details can be found here. http://www.face-online.org.uk/images/2015_Impact_Report.pdf
$1. A great deal of FACE’s work in recent years had been supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Through its team of regional co-ordinators, FACE had worked with 18,000 children and 400 teachers in 300 schools in areas of high disadvantage.
$1. Countryside Classroom had been three years in the making with Lord Curry chairing a core group of partners. Its aim had been to avoid duplication of effort and resources within the industry; to address the problem of organisations which were struggling financially to help them communicate more effectively by working together; and to meet teachers’ requests for easy access in one place to all the sources of information and expertise about food, farming and the natural environment. The new website also contained features and case studies as inspirational pieces. The Countryside Classroom website already had 10,000 subscribers to its newsletter with 30 partner organisations involved in the ongoing development. Thanks were given to the Prince’s Countryside Fund and Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) for their vital support in helping to start up the project. A passport had been developed initially for use by schools taking part in the launch of the project but this was proving so popular with schools that future development was being considered.
Dan moved on to talking about his vision for the future of FACE. He strongly agreed that it was time to wean everyone off the fairy tale view of farming. At the Big Bang when students were asked to highlight what science existed in farming they could name only GMOs and seemed unaware of the myriad ways in which science is crucial to the agricultural industry. Dan felt the whole industry needs to change the way it talks about itself. He cited the lifecycle of adoption of new ideas which categorises innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. The gap between innovators and early adopters needed to be bridged but in order to do that with teachers, we need to be better at explaining why it is important for children to learn about food, farming and the countryside. Why does farming matter? He believed the opportunity lay in noting what schools already do well: concentrating on the children’s direct relationship to food; and looking at global issues such as food security and climate change. The gap between these two areas needs connecting so that young people can learn what is going on in terms of trade, the economy and politics, science and sustainability.
FACE’s new 5 year strategy had been drafted following a listening exercise with representatives of all its stakeholders. As a result the new mission is:
$1· To work with school communities to help children and young adults understand the connection between farming and their daily lives
While the FACE vision is that
$1· All children will leave school able to make inspired and informed decisions about their relationship to food and its production.
$1· All teachers will be equipped to confidently use farming and agri-food as a broad context for teaching pupils about the complex and dynamic world around them
$1· Leading to a thriving British farming and agri-food community that is proactive in education, upheld by an engaged population and able to access top talent.
Many positive responses had been received regarding FACE’s strength as an “umbrella” organisation, maintaining its independence and balance and hence being trusted by teachers. These aspects would, of course, be retained.
Changes in emphasis for the future would involve a greater focus on farming, leaving food and natural environment matters to our partners who had expertise in those areas. FACE also intended to provide quality input to smaller numbers of schools, working with clusters of champion schools and building long-term relationships offering a programme of training, CPD and dissemination. Once lasting relationships had been formed, the team members would move on to a new cluster of schools replicating the process. It was envisaged that high quality resource content creation would also be a priority for FACE with a particular emphasis on secondary schools.
Following Dan’s presentation, delegates had the opportunity to shape FACE’s future by commenting on the proposed new strategy and much helpful input was received.
Moya Myerscough of FACE and Jenni Rant of the SAW (Science, Art & Writing) Trust explained their exciting Lunchbox Science project. This was developed partly in response from primary schools for “inspiration sessions.” As the East of England hosts a great deal of agri-research, this was seen as the ideal opportunity for a collaborative cross curricular approach.
Jenni wanted to overcome the language barrier to science, to encourage good practical science in schools, incorporating visual understanding through art and poetry to encourage concise expression.
Research scientists working with eight ingredients: wheat, cheese, potato, yogurt, water, lettuce, yeast and sugar explored connections between scientific research and UK agriculture. They devised eight days of activities offered to schools over a two week period and were highly praised.
The project continues to develop with the production of lesson plans and training workshops and it is hoped to disseminate the programme through FACE and Countryside Classroom.
Christine Knipe spoke about the educational potential of ASAO (Association of Show & Agricultural Organisations). She explained that show societies throughout the country with 23,500 years of combined history, welcome 6 million visitors to their events.
Most agricultural societies have been motivated by education whether of farmers or of the public. Currently, 63% encourage school visits, 68% have a dedicated education area and 71% encourage trade stands with educational activity. She highlighted some of the many and varied ways of engaging people at all different levels such as scarecrow trails to link the educational aspects of a show or food halls and food theatres.
A growing number of show societies are working with schools outside the shows via countryside days.
Christine closed her presentation by acknowledging the opportunities available to us all for working with the show societies to promote education.
Over a delicious lunch, attendees had the opportunity to network and chat with friends old and new before opting for a tour of the mill and gardens.
For more information about Jordans Mill see http://jordansmill.com/
If you want to learn more about FACE and its future strategy, contact