Heather Anderson: Scheme gives kids food for thought

Heather and Pete Anderson at Whitmuir The Organic Place in the Borders.'' Picture: comp
Heather and Pete Anderson at Whitmuir The Organic Place in the Borders.'' Picture: comp
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If you asked someone walking out of a supermarket if they knew where the fruit, veg or meat they just bought actually came from, I bet they wouldn’t be able to tell you.

Now this isn’t a criticism, it’s just the reality of the disconnect at the heart of our food chain.

A few decades ago, the weekly shop comprised of traditional staples from the greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers where the interaction between consumer and producer was clear. This, sadly, isn’t the case any more with large supermarkets dominating the food shopping experience.

For many of us the speed and stress of everyday life means we don’t have time to think about the provenance of our food. However, I believe the answer to this conundrum is simple – education right back where it really matters.

I feel we’ve lost a generation of young people to food laziness and a lack of knowledge of where our food comes from. However, the tide is turning. At our farm we’re helping spearhead the farming education movement and we’re reaping the benefits of more food-savvy kids by harnessing their hunger to learn.

My husband Pete and I moved to Whitmuir Farm in 2000 following successful careers as child psychologists. We’ve spent the past 15 years creating an organic farm combining our love of education, organic food and the outdoors.

We’ve welcomed more than 3500 people to our farm this year alone for educational visits – 1200 of these were children. Youngsters are hugely receptive but they also need good teachers – if the teachers don’t understand the issues they can’t embed the learning in the classroom.

Also, the children don’t control the food purchasing in a household and they inherit their food culture from their family – it’s unreasonable to expect them to change the food system we struggle with every day.

Community development is equally important. Linking land reform, climate change, food poverty and health are screamingly obvious places to start – in Scotland we at least have a Cabinet Secretary [Richard Lochhead] whose brief covers the environment and food.

Our success with farming education is shared across the country including at Craigies Farm near South Queensferry where our friend John Sinclair hosts numerous school activities. They are educational but crucially, they are also fun.

In 2015 more than 350 children have benefited from visits to Craigies, which is wonderful and a huge boost to helping enhance knowledge of the food supply chain. By tailoring visits to age groups and school curriculum we can communicate how food is produced.

However, by visiting farms like Craigies and Whitmuir we can help turn the tide and promote vital food and farming education as fun family days out which don’t cost the earth.

Heather Anderson owns Whitmuir The Organic Place in Lamancha, Scottish Borders. Craigies Farm and Whitmuir The Organic Pace are members of the First Stop Farm Shop campaign funded by The Community Food Fund.