Agriculture brought to life thanks to new ‘farm on wheels’

The coordinator of a project to help to bring farming and food production to children across Cornwall has vowed to get the show back on the road after the coronavirus crisis.

Almost 9,000 schoolchildren and 98 primary schools have already enjoyed the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association’s (RCAA) Farm & Country on the Road project.

The associated created the mobile classroom from a converted ‘Business Inabox’ trailer made by Ifor Williams Trailers.

The battery-powered classroom has been kitted out with mod-cons, including an oven, hob and sink and television screen for video-based learning. It even has a faux grass carpet to create an outdoors vibe.

The project, which cost just shy of £17,000 to launch and is delivered free of charge, is led by the RCAA’s education coordinator Emma Parkyn, who grew up on a family farm and is a qualified primary school teacher.

During the workshops, children are given the chance to make porridge using an oat flaker and are even taught how to milk a goat using a life-size model.

The workshops run for about 45 minutes and the trailer can accommodate between 15 and 20 children a session, from early years foundation stage through to Key Stage 2.

The charity also commissioned a series of six special educational videos from Cornwall-based Oatey Media which children watch onboard. They also have a selection of animal skins for children to explore as part of a sensory experience.

Parkyn, who lives in Wadebridge, said: “We go out visiting schools all over Cornwall to teach children where our food comes from. We have lots of different activities set up and welcome everybody on board, from vegan and vegetarian children to those who eat meat.

“We’re a completely free resource, although we do ask schools if they would like to make a donation to the charity. We want to keep it a free resource to make it as accessible to schools as possible.

As much as we loosely cover elements of the curriculum, we’re experts in this field and this allows the children to ask much more specific questions and get answers.

“We can go in and help inform the children which is really important. The feedback has been very positive from parents. Even farming children are going home to tell their parents they’ve learnt something new.

“We’ll be back on the road once the coronavirus lockdown ends.”

The idea sprung from the charity’s annual Farm & Country Days, which are always heavily oversubscribed.

The two-day event, which is now in its seventh year, welcomes 1,500 primary-aged school children every year. The event also includes the expertise of more than 50 demonstrators.

“We soon realised we were not able to accommodate the numbers of children wanting to attend these days. There was a need for an outreach service going out to schools and this is where the idea evolved,” Parkyn said.

The classroom was custom-built by RCAA staff while a local electrician and plumber were hired to fit the lights and gas supply.

The trailer has a tailgate which comes down and acts as an entrance point for the children, side door and two windows with blackout blinds. Inside, it has been fitted with storage drawers which can be secured while on the move, a whiteboard and appropriately-themed wall displays.

The charity has also purchased a second-hand Mitsubishi Shogun to tow the new classroom.

“We’re delighted with the trailer. It was very much a trial to start with as nobody, as far as we were aware, had done this before,” said Emma.

“Since we launched, 8,930 children have visited on the trailer and we’ve had a really good reception. We’re now going back to schools we’ve been to already but are continuing to attract new schools on-board.

“We’re delighted with how it’s working and how popular it’s becoming with primary schools. We’re looking forward to visiting many more schools and continuing to promote the important job that farmers do for us.”