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‘Rewarding’ research project underway examining urban children’s engagement with agriculture

Posted 4 October

"The most rewarding element will be interacting with the children, speaking in language they will understand and seeing what a difference the Farms for City Children experience makes to each individual.”

Researcher Liz Tree in front of a New Holland tractor.

A ‘rewarding’ research project looking at how a charity’s work engages children from urban environments with agriculture is underway at Harper Adams University.

The researcher chosen, Liz Tree, has just completed an Agriculture degree herself – and originally hails from Croydon, one of Greater London’s largest commercial districts.

She will be working with the Farms for City Children charity on a funded MRes studentship, backed by the charity and the Worshipful Company of Butchers, which will evaluate Farms for City Children’s work educating young people about agriculture and food.

The charity brings children from cities to farms in Devon, Gloucestershire and Pembrokeshire and aims to boost each child’s confidence and self-worth during their time on the farm – as well as encouraging them to consider careers in related industries.

Liz was chosen after impressing an interview panel with her grasp of the issues surrounding the role, having not only undertaken original research around diversity and inclusivity as part of her final-year dissertation – but also having then been invited to discuss that research as part of a panel on Removing Barriers for Young People in Farming at this year’s Groundswell Agricultural conference.

Liz said: “Being from an urban and non-farming background, this MRes is a topic close to my heart. I have been extremely lucky to have had experiences on farms originally stemming from family holidays to the countryside.

“However, I am aware that not everyone has the opportunity to experience rural life in this way. The work of Farms for City Children is a great way to get urban children to take an interest in where their food comes from, engage with nature and rural life as well as to reflect upon their own lives and put them into a new context.

“Having the opportunity to evaluate this work – and hopefully provide suitable data to help it to develop further and possibly rethink aspects of how it operates - is very exciting.”

Having already worked to research diversity and inclusivity in the whole food supply chain – and feeling that the general public face a disconnect in their understanding of food production issues – Liz now wants to use her MRes to show young people the possibilities of careers in agriculture and food.

She added: “Hopefully it can show that agriculture is a career available to those from the city as well as the country.

“A better understanding of farming across the whole population should also help farmers to gain support for their work and avoid a feeling of competition between town and country.

“I am convinced that Farms for City Children has a really significant role to play to support the personal development of children from the city whilst also helping the farming industry itself.

“I believe this research can make a difference by helping Farms for City Children to consider how best to operate and make as big an impact as possible, along with developing a framework for the future of the charity.”

Chief Executive Officer at Farms for City Children, Donna Marie Edmonds, said: “Farms for City Children are thrilled to welcome Liz to our team for the next year, examining our food, farming and outdoor learning offer and evaluating the impact this has on learning and engagement, connections and well-being and also the levels of enhanced environmental citizenship that children leave with.

“This work will empower the charity to iterate its offer, refine, improve, and ensure that we are playing an important role in developing agricultural education for young people in the UK. 

“Ensuring that children are more aware of the food production industry, animal welfare standards and a focus on sustainable and environmentally sensitive farming, are key priorities for Farms for City Children. We hope that Liz’s work will show that we are successful in delivering these priorities through our immersive residential offer.”

Andrew Parker, Master of the Worshipful Company of Butchers added: “The Butchers Company is very pleased to be backing this important project with funding from our Education Charity.

“The objectives of Farm for City Children are vitally important to our livestock and meat industry as well as to other sectors of British agriculture.”

With her research set to begin in earnest this Autumn, Liz added: “On a personal level I am looking forward to participating in the daily lives of the farms to really get under the skin of what they are doing and why.

“And of course, the most rewarding element will be interacting with the children, speaking in language they will understand and seeing what a difference the Farms for City Children experience makes to each individual.”

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