FarmLink provides a quality programme meeting the National Curriculum delivered by countryside professionals in and around the unique landscape of the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Teacher involvement, pupil feedback and repeat visits to schools during the winter months ensure success.
A Classroom in the Countryside
FarmLink evolved from an informal arrangement with the Redhill based family farming business of Alvis Bros Ltd hosting a mix of youth groups, school parties, special needs groups and adult groups on their various farms.
Through the course of these visits from 1985 to 2000 it became very apparent many of those visiting had little or no idea about where their food came from or how it was produced.
In 2000, Windwhistle School from Weston Super Mare approached Alvis Bros Managing Director, John Alvis to see if they could visit the farm but instead of just coming out smoothing a calf, cuddling a lamb and watching the cows being milked could they link it into their lessons as part of the national curriculum.
This was duly done and the start of a focussed programme of primary education took place funded entirely by Alvis Bros. However, the success of the pilot meant that the cost of delivery increased to an extent where it could not be sustained by a farming business in the midst of an agricultural recession. At this point other potential partners were approached and FarmLink became a formal entity involving four farmers, Bath and North East Somerset, Envolve, the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and under the guise of FACE (Farm and Countryside Education) - the National Farmers Union and the Royal Agricultural Society of England.
As a formalised entity FarmLink was able to apply for external funding and as well as contributions from those involved finance was sourced from the Social, Economic and Environmental Development Programme, Churngold and various charities.
A retired farm manager ‘Farmer Nick’ delivers the FarmLink programme both in school and on the farm. He is accredited following the CEVAS accreditation scheme and is criminal records bureau checked.
Ideally, the first point of contact a pupil will have with Farmer Nick is when he takes his lunchbox into school in the autumn term and talks through what he has in it, the health benefits and the basic principles of how it is made. In the following summer term the same class visit the farm and build their visit around a particular topic being conducted at school. The aim thereafter is to get each class back out onto farm, each time studying a different topic.
Structurally, the class builds up to the visit with pre study exercise, the trip to the farm is targeted with appropriate work sheets and the follow up back in school covers areas that were investigated and presentation of information gleaned.