A free education programme that links farmers with schools across the country through Zoom calls – ‘Farmer Time’, has connected 2,500 students with 90 farmers in less than two years.

The programme for primary and post-primary students, is coordinated by Airfield Estate.

“Many farmers show great interest in the initiative, but we are always looking for more to take part so we would encourage them to get in touch,” said Elaine Crosse, head of communications and advocacy, Airfield Estate.

“The farmers that have been involved have hugely enjoyed the programme, and they are delighted to have the opportunity to represent themselves positively and independently, talking to future consumers and potential employees in the food industry. Feedback has shown farmers find it to be efficient for them and also fulfilling.

“Farmers are playing their part in opening agriculture up to young people, and are changing the narrative around agriculture by showing what a day in their life is really like. 

“It also allows farmers to connect with the young people and share their knowledge, which is a valuable experience for many farmers who work alone,” he said.

Farmer Time

Farmers, Elaine said, are joining the dots between farming and the food on our plates during Farmer Time calls: “Todays students aren’t as exposed to farming, as the generations before, so they don’t associate the two.”

“Farmer Time is creating relationships between farmers and our future consumers, and shaping a greater in-depth and long-term understanding of farming and food production, in our primary and secondary schools nationwide.

“The virtual class calls are an opportunity to build a direct connection with those who grow our food and the land it comes from. Students also gain insight into what a career in Ireland’s diverse agricultural industry might look like,” she said.

“Farmer Time was set up to help school children better understand where food comes from and engage in learning about farming in the classroom. It is designed as an interactive virtual programme for primary and secondary schools that links farmers and students through digital video calls from their classroom to the farm.”

The best question a student asked during Farmer Time, Elaine said, was: “What will you do with your boy calves when they are born because they’ll be no use for milking? Coming from an urban class where, before the calls, they wouldn’t have considered if the milk came from males or females. They probably never even thought of the fact that milk came from cows at all.”

Farmer Time

“This initiative aims to connect students to agriculture in a way that they may never previously have experienced. It gives students an insight into farming, by following a farmer in some of their daily tasks,” Elaine said. 

Most classes carried out calls with the farmer twice a month. Topics covered during the links have included: animal rearing and breeding; food production; the lifestyle of a farmer; biodiversity, land use and farm structure.

“By linking real world examples of STEM, geography, history, business and wellness curriculums to food and farming on a regular basis, it is embedding food into our children’s primary and secondary curriculums,” Elaine said.

Airfield Estate would like to expand Farmer Time, and have as many farmer-student links as possible, she said.

“It is a hugely valuable and unique initiative, offering an insight into one of Ireland’s most important sectors.”