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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.

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:

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