The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has today (Friday, January 27) launched its ‘Farming through the seasons’ competition for schools across Northern Ireland.

The competition, which is in partnership with the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend (BOIOFW) initiative and sponsored Asda, is open to all playgroups, nursery, primary and special schools.

As their entry to the competition, pupils must complete a creative task, ranging from decorating a downloadable image to writing their own poem.

The competition, and task, is split into five sections by age groups:

  • Foundation level (Nursery, pre-school and playgroups): Pupils have to decorate an assigned image which can be downloaded on the UFU’s website;
  • Foundation level (P1 and P2): Pupils have to decorate a set image which can be downloaded on the UFU’s website;
  • Key Stage 1 (P3 and P4): Pupils will partake in a photographic competition. The photographs must be emailed or posted to the union;
  • Key Stage 2 (P5-P7):  Pupils should create a quatern poem (16-lines consisting of four quatrains) that highlights farming through the seasons;
  • Special schools: Pupils may enter any section of the competition.

This year’s theme relates to the union’s food and farming education resource ‘Dig in’.

UFU deputy president William Irvine said the competition aims to “allow pupils to learn more about how farmers work hard 365 days of the year throughout the various seasons to produce the nutritious, high-quality produce on our tables”.

“This year’s schools competition theme ‘Farming through the seasons’ provides an opportunity for teachers and parents to start the discussion both in the classroom and at home about the importance of food and farming in Northern Ireland and our unique family farm structure," he added.

The closing date for entries is Friday, March 24, 2023.

Competition prizes for the winners include:

  • £200 for the winning school in each section plus transport for a class to the nearest participating open farm;
  • £40 for the winning pupil in each section;
  • £100 for the runner-up school in each section plus a Bramley apple tree;
  • £20 for the runner-up pupil in each section.

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend

The BOIOFW initiative is now in its 12th year and, the UFU said, is the perfect partner for the schools’ competition.

As part of the prize, the winner of each category receives free transport for their class to the nearest participating BOIOFW farm, and competition entries will be on display throughout the weekend for pupils to view their fantastic work.

BOIOFW is taking place on June 16-18, 2023 and Irvine said he would “encourage all schools to consider organising an educational trip to a local participating farm on the dedicated schools’ day”.

“This free event showcases Northern Ireland’s world-class ‘farm to fork’ journey and reconnects consumers with our farmers – the primary food producers.”

Entry forms have been sent electronically to all playgroups, nursery, primary and special schools, the union said, and schools’ competition templates are available by visiting the UFU website.