Last week I visited Paddington Farm in Glastonbury Somerset of which I am Chair. It’s a lovely 43 acre organic farm which is run as a social enterprise. The farm offers holidays to groups and families at a reasonable price with lovely educational activities to give everyone a relaxing and fun holiday.
Children and staff from LEYF have visited the farm for the past twenty years and always come back relaxed and enthused and much more knowledgeable about the origins of their food. In a world where we trust less and are highly anxious about health and safety, a visit to the farm is almost essential. Of course, visiting a farm is not in the EYFS but you could probably meet most of the EYFS requirements after a week on a farm.
Interestingly, the week before I visited the farm, I was invited by the School of Social Entrepreneurs to lead a training session. This had been commissioned by Camden Council to help some of their charities consider becoming social enterprises. The group was made up of children’s services, food organisations and farms. It was a magic combination for me. I found myself able to move swiftly from ‘the cost of silage’ and ‘installing biomass heating’ to ‘managing occupancy and reducing parental debt.’ Colleagues there represented the city farms and the Federation of City Farms. It prompted a big conversation about collaboration and networking and a big message to the world about the role of farms in children’s education. As ever, I checked to see who the Minster with responsibility for farming and food is but according to the Government website there is no Minister with these responsibilities anymore! So in the meantime farms unite and if you cannot stay a few days at Paddington Farm, a visit to Kentish Town City Farm, or Hackney City Farm or Vauxhall brings many benefits.
Then chatting to Penny Webb ( Penny’s Place) about the Ofsted Big Conversation she mentioned that she had just been to visit Top Barn Farm up in Worcestershire so another Early Years colleague is taking children down to the farm to grow vegetables, play outside and sometimes do craft activities.
Travelling back on the train, I began to sing (to myself) the song the ‘Farmer in his Den / Dell’ and I could not remember the last time I heard it. It prompted a reminder to all staff about the importance of ring games outside and the social, physical and communication benefits to children. So, think about when you last did a ring game? If you can’t remember buy a copy of Iona Opie’s Book. In the meantime, let me weave farms and ring games together in the shape of the Farmer (if you want to see a Farmer try their calendar , you are in for quite a surprise!)