Unit 2 – Farmer vs student experience
How can farms benefit from student visits?
As farms have generally grown larger in the Western world, the distance between farms as the source of food and the customers who need it grows larger. Today many people have very poor knowledge of what goes on at a farm. The work it took to produce the food on our tables is not easy to grasp. It is not difficult to understand that the only criteria for food becomes what it costs in the store. Without knowledge of what fresh produce is before it has undergone a factory process, it is also easy to choose ready-made or half finished products that have little resemblance to what was harvested on the farm and that have a considerably lower nutritional value compared with the fresh product. As USA’s best known food journalist Michel Pollan writes: Don’t eat products that your grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food.
The farmers themselves are often alone in the daily tasks, lacking the colleagues with whom they can share and reflect on the work at the farm. Many have told that the work with schools and kindergartens has given them the chance to rediscover the value of the farm and of what they do as farmers when they experience it through the eyes of the learners. The children also tell about the farm when they have been there and help to re-embed the farm as a resource in the local community.
Which age groups can benefit from farm experience on organic farms?
All age groups can return from farm visits with a harvest of fruitful experiences. Communication between the farmer and the teacher/caretaker is of utmost importance. The farmer knows best what the farm can offer. Often the farmer has a type of year’s calendar that illustrates what is going on at the farm throughout the year. Maybe it is possible to witness the birth of animals or participate when many hands are needed to take in the crops. The teacher can tell what the main learning topics are concerned with to make the bridge to the classroom. The tasks must be appropriate for the age and capabilities of the children. For kindergartens, it can be enough to rake some leaves or throw some apples to the pigs. They need an arena where they can alternate between play and simple tasks. For older children and youth it is important that the tasks are real, not set up as an illustration and torn down afterwards. It requires a lot of the farmer and other helpers on the farm to find the right tasks, prepare the tasks and lead the learners underway.