Teenagers Help Shape Future Direction for Industry Engagement

Over sixty teenagers from across the country came together today (12th September) to debate and discuss issues around farming and food production and help shape the future direction of how the industry engages with young people.

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LEAF Education’s Teenager Engagement Day, held at the award-winning educational facility, The Farmschool in Harpenden, was attended by LEAF Honorary President, HRH The Countess of Wessex. The outcomes from the event will feed into a wider research study, supported by Rothamsted Research, exploring young people’s views, beliefs and values in relation to food, farming and the countryside.

As LEAF Education looks to extend its outreach to teenagers, the event represents the first in a series of new and exciting initiatives aimed at understanding the way in which 12 to 18-year olds view food and farming and crucially, involving them as it formulates its future strategy and priorities.

During the day teenagers led and participated in discussion groups debating issues such as outdoor learning, health and wellbeing, communication, careers in agriculture and linking schools with farming. They were encouraged to explore ideas and identify options for potential LEAF Education activity. Teenagers were asked to present the main findings from their discussion groups, show videos they had created during the day and vote on the best ideas generated from each group.

Speaking at the event, Carl Edwards, Director, LEAF Education said: “Engaging young people in farming and food production is vitally important; both to the future of the agricultural industry as well as for their own health and wellbeing.

“Today’s event was all about listening to teenagers, hearing their ideas, finding out what issues matter most to them and why they feel disconnected to farming and the outside world. It has been a truly inspiring day.

“We have seen huge levels of engagement from everyone and been particularly impressed with their intelligent and imaginative ideas on how we, as an industry, can reach out to them more effectively. Young people represent our workforce and consumers of the future; they have a strong voice and clear opinions. Today is the first step in ensuring their voice is heard and that it helps define how farming becomes more relevant to the next generation.”

Professor Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships at Rothamsted Research, helped to shape the teenage research study. Today’s event took place just a few miles from the Harpenden-based research centre. Professor Karp said: “It has been so refreshing to hear directly from young people on the challenges we all face in producing sufficient, nutritious food for future generations and caring for our environment at the same time. Science and innovation can help to meet those challenges; whether in working with farmers to identify food and energy crops that will thrive as the world warms; helping us to understand soil health or in weighing-up the trade-offs that come with different farming systems. These are all central discussions that need to involve not only scientists, farmers and industry, but the next generation for whom these issues will become most pressing. We look forward to more of the lively and exciting conversations we’ve seen today as we continue this dialogue so vital to all our futures.”

LEAF Education will now work with the facilitator students from Brockhill Park School to analyse the outputs from today’s Teenager Engagement Day; combined with the results of a wider research study, supported by Rothamsted Research, involving an omnibus survey carried out amongst 12 to 18 year-olds – to shape future outreach activity. The research findings will be revealed and presented alongside an outline of forthcoming LEAF Education activity at the LEAF Education and Public Engagement conference on 16th October, held at Rothamsted Research.

Click here to view the full press release.