From farm to fork – school kids from across the Glasgow Clyde region got a real taste for Scottish farming during a successful day trip to Lawrie and Symington Market, organised by the Royal Highland Education Trust.

RHET Clyde’s annual Food and Farming Day at the Lanark Agricultural Centre featured an action-packed schedule of farm discovery, enjoyed by over 400 pupils, who learnt invaluable lessons about the different roles and responsibilities of Scottish farmers, while experiencing first-hand where their food comes from.

The pupils were exposed to sheep shearing demonstrations, a butchery show and live auctioneering – where they were able to try their hand at selling a flock of young lambs to the highest bidder. As well as learning about beef production and the importance of ear tagging and passports, the pupils were able to get up close with an Ayrshire dairy cow and take part in an interactive dairy session which included cheese tasting.

From animal products to arable produce, the pupils learnt all about what vegetables can be grown in Scottish soil and were able to try the fresh local produce for themselves. Queuing up to take a seat in a tractor, they learnt about the valuable role of machinery on the farm and then were taken next door to meet Jenny the Clydesdale – where they couldn’t believe the size of her hooves. Throughout the day the children were brimming with questions and were not shy to direct these at the farmers, hungry to learn about food production and for many, eager to experience farming of any kind for the first time.

Attending the event, Royal Highland Agricultural Society for Scotland chief executive Alan Laidlaw commented: “Just watch their faces and see how wide eyed they are in amazement of what’s in front of them. A lot of these children will never get exposed to anything like this and they are at a critical age when they are eager to learn and are able to understand the process of where food comes from,” he said. “I believe, as an industry, we have a responsibility to teach this generation about the valuable role of farming. Days like this one are a fantastic opportunity for pupils to see a range of activities which happen on farms and allows them to ask questions.”

Chairman of RHASS and RHET volunteer, Jimmy Warnock, explained to the pupils during the sheep shearing demonstration that it was like removing a warm jacket and asked whether they would want theirs removed in the warm summer sun. A huge supporter of RHET over the years, Jimmy explained that now more than ever farmers need to do their part to protect and promote the industry.

“It is so important that we present a positive image of our industry in a time where they are so many challenges. Farmers have a duty to be armed with all the facts and to be prepared to defend Scottish farming at a time where there is a growth in vegan movements and sensationalism by the media,” he stressed. “Days like today are so important as the pupils can see how much farmers care about their animals and the hard work and effort that goes in to this way of life."

Project coordinator for RHET Clyde, Kris Paterson, commented: “We are very pleased to be able to hold this event again this year thanks to the support of our volunteers and partners. Events like these bring school children into contact with the people who are involved in producing their food and giving them the opportunity to learn directly from these producers. This connection will help to produce a more informed generation of consumers who are conscious of where their food comes from and what goes into producing it.”

The dairy demonstration was a firm favourite but many of the children were amazed to learn how the cows were milked and when asked what kind of cows produce milk, some responded ‘green top cows’ – having only ever seen cartons from the supermarkets. Similarly, in the butchery demonstration when asked where burgers come from, they referred to fast food restaurants or supermarkets. One pupil exclaimed that the beef burger made in front of him was the most delicious meat he had ever enjoyed and said he was going to ask his parents to make them for him in the future.

As the day drew to a close, the excitement radiating from the pupils was palpable and many exclaimed that they couldn’t wait to learn more about farming; a couple of them were already gearing up to tell mum and dad that they had their heart set on becoming a future auctioneer.