Dairy farmers, Eoin and Róisín Corrigan from Co. Meath, recently visited their ‘Farmer Time’ partner school in Co. Wexford to reconnect children and Irish food production.
Eoin from Corrigan Dairy Farm holds monthly video calls with a class at Scoil Mhuire in Horeswood, Co. Wexford, to give children an insight into Irish farming.
He is currently one of 53 farmers paired with teachers in schools across Ireland under the Farmer Time programme, run by Airfield Estate, Dublin’s only urban working farm and gardens.
“We have a great story to tell about Irish dairy and Irish farming but I think, at times, we should be more proactive in telling that.
“Farmers together can talk all day, but you need to know a different way to share the information to not only a different age group, but to people who don’t have a background in farming,” Eoin said.
The couple went to Wexford to meet the pupils and to introduce their class cow, Pablo, and its twins, which the kids had named Thunder and Lighting in a previous video call.
“I think we got more out of the day than the kids did,” Eoin said.
“I couldn’t get over how many things they remembered of what I had said to them over the year. There were quotes and pictures of all the cows they had named on the wall. It was really fantastic,” he added.
Commenting on the Farmer Time programme, Scoil Mhuire principal, Brian Flood said:
“Even though we are a country school, we felt there is a disconnect between farming and how food ends up on the table. We wanted to educate children about the work farmers do and their important role.”
In their first video call last September, Eoin taught the class about what it means to be a dairy farmer.
Throughout the academic year, he then covered the journey of a cow; milk exports; dairy products; drying-off; calving; and the breeding season.
“I would always have a topic that I want to cover and then we [Eoin and class teacher, Joe Mooney] let the kids lead it into the direction they want,” he explained.
Farmer Time administrator, Ruth Fitzsimon said the farm visit showed the strength of the relationship between the farmer and the pupils.
Farmer Time started last year with a trial involving four schools and farmers. Now, it involves 53 primary and secondary schools and farmers [during the most recent academic year].
A teacher and farmer are paired with the aim of building a relationship over the school year. This involves regular video calls, two per month for 15 minutes, as recommended by Airfield Estate.
Topics of discussion are set out by the teacher and the farmer based on the type of farming and the season, according to Fitzsimon.
Due to the huge interest from schools around Ireland, farmers are needed to join the programme starting this September.
“Never before have farmers had such an opportunity to share their knowledge; their story, with the young minds that will become future consumers and possibly, agricultural specialists,” Fitzsimon said.