Imagine if your life was devoid of nature. No calming bird song, no green trees, no wide open spaces in which to roam free – just traffic noise, technology, WiFi, sirens and danger. Imagine being so disconnected from the countryside that you had no idea about farming or fresh foods and where they actually come from. This is the reality for many disadvantaged inner city children, who suffer from low confidence and self-esteem as a result. But there is hope: Farms for City Children, a charity that enables urban youngsters to experience the adventure of working together on farms in the heart of the British countryside.
That’s why I am delighted to announce that Farms For City Children is now food marketing agency KW Marketing’s registered charity of the year, and I am sponsoring a child every quarter to be a Farmer For A Week! They’ll learn how to feed the pigs and poultry and check on heritage breed cattle, sheep and lambs. They’ll grow, harvest, prepare and cook nutritious meals, and taste a wide variety of fresh seasonal produce. They’ll share conversations at mealtimes in a warm and nurturing environment, encouraging them to forge stronger relationships with those around them and to develop healthier food choices. It really is a recipe for success.
I first fell in love with this inspirational charity a few years ago, when I was working on a photoshoot with The Really Good Media Company. I visited the farm at Nethercott House in Devon (there are two more in Lower Treginnis in Pembrokeshire and Wick Court, Gloucestershire). It was a bright and early start but, WOW, it opened my eyes to the wonderful work they do!
Michael Morpurgo, the children’s author best known for War Horse, set up Farms with his wife, Clare, in 1976. Some of their best childhood memories were from holidays spent in the countryside or on the coast. But, as teachers, they knew there were many children who were rarely, if ever, immersed in nature. They also understood that children who learn outdoors know more, understand more, feel better, behave better, work more cooperatively and are physically healthier. I couldn’t agree more – even us adults do better if we allow ourselves to spend time in nature. I know I always feel so much more focused and energised when I leave my phone at home and go for a run or walk in the woods.
When I visited, the children were immersed in a totally new world, far away from their everyday life. A world filled with clear starry skies, fresh air, real food and plenty of mud. They were involved in practical and meaningful tasks, like collecting eggs, tending orchards and large kitchen gardens, cooking nutritious meals, lighting fires and making dens. It was wonderful to see.
For today’s children who are ever more disconnected, being a Farmer For A Week builds self-confidence and self-worth. One teacher from Vauxhall Primary School in London noted that: ‘Having three healthy meals a day was a revelation to many of our children. They LOVED the food – it was truly delicious. All children tried something they wouldn’t usually.’ A pupil from Whetstone Field Primary, Walsall, said their time spent on the farm ‘will encourage me to think more about where my food comes from. I think that it will encourage me to spend more time playing outside and looking at wildlife than playing on electronics’.
The benefits of a visit extend long beyond the children’s time at the farms – they take their new skills and experiences back home and to school, and parents, carers and teachers see a positive and lasting impact on their behaviour, learning and self-esteem. I’m so glad to be able to be part of these children’s journeys. My sponsorship upholds one of digital marketing agency KW Marketing’s values: energy. We transmit positive vibes whatever we do. And I can’t wait to get involved in some events at Nethercott House and see what our young farmers have been up to!