HRH Countess of Wessex attends farming teenage debate

HRH Countess of Wessex was amongst the attendees at the LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Education and Public Engagement Conference last week. LEAF’s Honorary President joined growers, retailers and industry representatives to explore practical and effective solutions to help reconnect teenagers with farming.

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The event, which took place at The Auditorium, Sainsbury’s, London, and had the theme ‘Feeding Fertile Minds: Engaging teenagers with farming, food and the environment’, brought together a range of experts including researchers, policy makers, educationalists, social media experts, farmers and youth organisations. This was LEAF’s second annual public engagement conference, and the first since LEAF merged with FACE (Farming and Countryside Education).

Delegates at the conference heard how it was important to start engaging people with farming and food production as early as possible, with LEAF Demonstration farmer, John Renner telling the conference we need to sow the seeds when children are young. For teenagers, it is vital that they are involved with shaping their future food systems rather than being simply informed, with Iris Schönherr from The New Citizenship Project calling on the industry to switch from a ‘consumer’ to a ‘citizen’ mindset.

Teenagers had their own voice at the conference, with some of those involved in Welcome Collection’s RawMinds project speaking about the impact it had on their lives and on their views of farming. They highlighted the need for any farming initiatives working with teenagers to include social media and for young people to be actively involved in helping to shape projects. The conference also addressed the importance of food as a key channel to reach teenagers, with Jane Mackay from YouthSight, describing food as the ‘new rock and roll’ and how it is a fundamental part of their identity and lifestyle.

Carl Edwards, LEAF Director, Education and Public Engagement said: “As the world has become increasingly digitalised, young people in particular are moving further away from experiencing and understanding the farming and the natural world. Reversing this generational decline can offer significant social and economic benefits to everyone, not just the farming industry. LEAF and FACE are ready to take the lead to ensure we embed knowledge and understanding of farming, food and the environment into everyday life and teenagers are a key priority audience. What’s very clear is that we need to find out what they think of our industry, allow them to teach us as well and consult more closely with them. We also need to make sure that we have got credible resources that meet demands of current educational needs – something we are already addressing through the online resource portal Countryside Classroom.”

For a full commentary from the day as well as speaker presentations visit: https://leaf.eco/leaf/latestnews/events/Education_and_Public_Engagement_Conference_2017.eb

To read the full press release click here.

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