Posted 3 November
“While they work with young people at, perhaps, different times in their education, both Farms for City Children and Harper Adams University are striving to develop an understanding of food and farming which changes lives."
The agricultural philanthropy of two of Britain’s leading literary figures has been recognised with Honorary Degrees from Harper Adams University.
Sir Michael Morpurgo and Clare, Lady Morpurgo received the awards at an intimate London ceremony at Glazier’s Hall on Wednesday from Harper Adams University’s Chancellor, Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal.
Each received their Honorary Doctorate for the work they have done over the past five decades to develop an interest in food and farming among young people through their charity, Farms for City Children.
Presenting both to Her Royal Highness for their Honour, Harper Adams Vice-Chancellor Professor Ken Sloan noted: “Michael and Clare set up Farms for City Children in 1976.
“At this point, Michael was about to embark on a writing career that would see him become one of our most respected and successful children’s authors. He has enthralled and informed children around the world with novels such as The Butterfly Lion, Why the Whales Came, Private Peaceful, and, of course, War Horse, perhaps his most well-known and well-loved work.
“War Horse was made into a stage play, featuring magnificent, life-sized horse puppets, which ran for many years in London’s West End, transferred to Broadway and was later made into a successful film. Michael was Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005 and has won a raft of literary awards and prizes.
“Nevertheless, he is on record as saying that he considers Farms for City Children his greatest achievement in life.
“Like Michael’s literary career, Farms for City Children arose from the Morpurgos’ experience as teachers.”
Professor Sloan told the assembled guests how the children who came to the farms often have very little or no experience of the countryside and so, drawing on Clare’s experiences of spending time in rural Devon as a child and exploring the countryside around her, Michael and Clare set out to enrich children’s lives by giving them personal experience of the natural world around them and of farming.
From its initial roots in Devon, Farms for City Children is still going strong 47 years after it began. A report for the charity, produced after a year-long MRes post at Harper Adams University, was presented to trustees only last month and noted the transformational impact it still has on young people.
Speaking after receiving her award, Clare said: “Being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Harper Adams University has been a great pleasure.
“The love of the countryside which began in my youth in the lanes of Devon led me to the setting up of Farms for City Children with Michael in 1976, and the same path brought us here today.”
And Sir Michael added: “While they work with young people at, perhaps, different times in their education, both Farms for City Children and Harper Adams University are striving to develop an understanding of food and farming which changes lives.
“I have said before that honing that nurturing that understanding is more necessary than ever as children become even more disconnected from the countryside, from the environment and from the source of the food they eat.
“With that in mind, I am pleased to see the work which Harper Adams does to broaden everyone’s understanding of food and farming – and delighted to accept today’s honour.”