Farm-to-fork on the menu for pupils

Brooke McGovern and Ewan McPherson of King's Park PS milk a cow at Valentine's Education Farm during a visit to Dumfries House estate.
Brooke McGovern and Ewan McPherson of King's Park PS milk a cow at Valentine's Education Farm during a visit to Dumfries House estate.

Pupils from King’s Park Primary School have visited an Ayrshire estate with royal links to learn about the provenance of food and the importance of sustainability.

A group of 22 pupils from the school were among the latest to be given the opportunity to visit Dumfries House’s Valentine’s Education Farm and Pierburg Building and Education Centre to engage in The Prince’s Foundation’s innovative food education programme.

Erin Connolly, P7 class teacher at King’s Park, said: “Some of our children had never seen a pig or chicken in real life. Their experience at Dumfries House was invaluable to them, helping them to understand where food comes from and how easy it is to prepare a meal and make healthier food choices.”

The group embarked on the farm-to-fork experience as part of pupils’ health and wellbeing education. They were instructed on how to dig up vegetables and how to prepare them to make soup. At the estate’s education farm, pupils met week-old piglets, learned about dairy farming, and were introduced to the many rare breeds of animals who call Dumfries House home.

“The staff running the activities were very knowledgeable about where food comes from and about caring for animals,” said Ms Connolly. “The children gained a great understanding and the visit help them visualise where their food comes from, showing that food doesn’t just come from the supermarket. It tied in with our World War II topic, too, as they now understand better how people grew their own food during wartime rationing.”

Valentin’s Education Farm was officially opened by HRH The Prince Charles in June 2017 and contains ten different rare breeds of animal. Each month, the farm welcomes hundreds of school children, who learn about animal husbandry, the provenance of food and bi-products of farm animals.

The Pierburg Building and Education Centre, which is also located on the 2,000-acre estate is used to deliver training in horticulture and healthy eating programmes to visiting primary school groups. The adjacent Kauffman Education Garden is a one-acre area that gives school pupils the opportunity to plant, cultivate, and harvest vegetables for use in cookery classes.

Arianne Knowles, food, farming and horticulture education manager for The Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House, said: “We were delighted to welcome pupils from King’s Park Primary School to the estate and were pleased with how eager they were to engage with our food education programme.

“It’s really important that younger generations are educated on where food comes from and the importance of sustainability. There’s a bit of a broken link when it comes to children in terms of them understanding where food comes from and how it ends up on their plates. Dumfries House is a great place to teach them about this as we have the facilities to show them the full circle and they can help the gardeners with practical tasks such as weeding, planting and composting.

“We feel that pupils’ learning at school can be greatly enhanced by what they experience at Dumfries House. They have access to specialist machinery and equipment, visiting industry staff, and hands-on, real-life activities inspired by nature and harmony. The rising number of pupils engaging in our programmes is testament to our expert team of enthusiastic tutors, the foresight of teachers to recognise the value of out-of-school learning, and the outcomes attained by young people during their time here.”