Corporate Social Responsibility
In recent times the non-farming public has become disconnected from how and where their food is produced. This is particularly true of school children who are often interested in this subject and can be helped with various projects which both interest and involve them in such studies.
A survey for the British Nutrition Foundation revealed today that a quarter of UK primary school children think that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs.
Even staple foods such as pasta and bread had kids stumped with roughly a third of children aged five to eight thinking that they are meat products. 19% of the same age group were unaware that potatoes grew under the ground, with 10% mistakenly believing they grew on trees or bushes.
Optima Excel is actively involved with helping to educate school children about how and where their food is grown by running a series of programmes in conjunction with other organisations like the British Potato Council, The Home Grown Cereals Authority and LEAF.
One initiative involves growing crops in the school playground using old tractor tyres can help them understand some of the difficulties and rewards of growing your own foods. Typically crops are grown which the children can eat themselves like carrots, potatoes, swedes, wheat and oats.
Prizes are provided for pupils who demonstrate that they have gained an understanding of the issues involved and one clever student found that he could literally grow his favourite food ‘Flapjacks’ by growing his own oats and then helping his Mother with her bees! He won a prize to an international rugby match at The Millenium Stadium Cardiff to watch Wales play rugby. This programme has the full support of several politicians including Roger Williams who farms near Brecon.
“This work helps children to gain an understanding of their food supply in an efficient yet practical way”. There are no costs involved for schools which wish to participate in these exercises and all tutors have the required registration certificates.
In 2004 Optima Excel working with The Hay Festival (www.hayfesival.org) started offering visitors the opportunity to visit one or more farms during the summer half term break.
All the farms are commercial family run businesses (as opposed to model or demonstration ones) and visitors are able to see and experience some of the realities of farming. At the end of each walk visitors are provided with a taste of the produce from the farm.
For Example: On the cider farm they are offered two types of cider; on the dairy farm cheese, milk and sometimes yogurt are available and on the beef and cereal farm beef rolls.
Educational material is available for any adults who want to further expand their knowledge of agriculture and all visits involve opportunities to ask questions and discuss a wide range of issues.