OVER 1,600 primary schools and 43,000 children nationwide are showcasing resilience and creativity by preparing to plant their own spring gardens and learning about fresh Irish produce, despite the school closures due to Covid-19.
It is being facilitated by Incredible Edibles — a free, healthy eating and growing project organised by Agri Aware, the agri-food educational body.
The initiative, which has been running for 13 years, allows students to make healthy choices into the future as well as encouraging a heightened knowledge of local Irish produce.
Designed to enhance generational change in the fight against obesity, it ensures that participating students become informed consumers when making purchasing decisions as young adults, and later as parents.
Schools receive free grow packs that contain everything teachers and pupils need to grow carrots, lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, turnips, and herbs.
They have found unique ways of learning all about food origin and fresh Irish produce through online teaching, while preparing to plant their own spring gardens in March.
Elizabeth Lane’s junior, senior, first and second classes in Loughfouder National School in Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, have been examining the difference between processed and unprocessed foods in their kitchens, and making posters.
They talked about the origins of food, how it comes from the farm, and how it is processed or unprocessed.
Eileen Murphy’s pre-school class in Apple Tree Farm Montessori, Goresbridge, Co Kilkenny, had a video call with a dairy farmer, who showed them around his milking parlour. They also learned about making bread and growing vegetables.
Wicklow Educate Together National School students put together posters, booklets, and a fact file based on where the food in their kitchen fridges and cupboards originates.
“We researched and learned that some food is grown in Ireland, such as strawberries and potatoes, but foods like bananas are only grown in hot places, like Africa,” explained one pupil.
“One pupil told us how their granny milks the cows and uses the milk to make butter and cheese,” said third class students, taught by Mercedes Russell and Eamonn O’Hanrahan.
Fourth class girls in Scoil Bhríde Cailíní in Blanchardstown, Dublin, examined the difference between foods grown in Ireland and abroad and the meaning of the Bord Bia Quality Mark.
One girl found a kiwi and said that it could not grow in Ireland because the climate is not warm enough, but another found that the country has the perfect climate for growing carrots.
Agri Aware chairman Alan Jagoe, a dairy and tillage farmer from Carrigaline, Co Cork, praised the teachers and students taking part and thanked parents for supporting the project by supporting their children’s participation in online learning.
While schools were closed during the Covid-19 restrictions, teachers showed great commitment to the project by making use of the wealth of free resources.
Meanwhile, Agri Aware’s ‘Dig In’ competition for primary schools has also been launched. It gives children a real insight into all aspects of Irish farming.
These range from learning how animals are reared and crops are grown, to understanding the role hedgerows play in promoting biodiversity.
A €500 cash prize and an Agri Aware Mobile Farm Visit, when restrictions are lifted, are on offer for primary school classes that bring the farming and food education resource to life in their learning.
The Mobile Farm is a unique outdoor classroom experience which educates young and old about the different farm animals on Irish farms, outlines quality food production, and explains how Irish farmers use the highest animal welfare standards.
Supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Agri Aware launched its revitalised resource aimed at primary school students last November.
It encourages teachers to bring the resource to life and reconnect their students with how the food that ends up on their dinner plates is produced from farm to fork.
Open to all primary school levels with April 30 as the closing date for entries, the competition aims to provide children with a real insight into all aspects of Irish farming.
Mr Jagoe said that Agri Aware is delighted to launch the competition in an effort to encourage teachers to use ‘Dig In’ as an innovative learning resource for their students.
Mr Jagoe said the initiative brings to life all aspects of modern farming in a child-friendly, innovative, and educational way, and is sure to be useful to parents and teachers during this challenging period of homeschooling.
Agri Aware’s mission is to create a national awareness of the value of modern agriculture and farming, the stewardship of the rural environment, animal welfare, and the benefits of nutritious Irish food.
Not all of its activities are focused on schools, however, and earlier this month it teamed up with top performance nutritionist Daniel Davey to host an Instagram Live series. [media=https://www.instagram.com/daveynutrition/?hl=en[/media]
That series focused on the importance of eating sustainable Irish produce from family farms in order to achieve health and fitness goals.
Daniel, a performance nutritionist with Dublin GAA and Leinster Rugby team members, also comes from a sheep farm in Sligo and has over 80,000 followers on Instagram.
Alan Jagoe, a dairy and tillage farmer, joined him for the event during which they cooked a black pudding frittata and overnight porridge oats. They chatted about their farming backgrounds, the importance of eating locally, animal welfare, health, and much more.
More than 130 people tuned in to the live event, while the recorded video has already been watched over 3,000 times.
Agri Aware was founded in 1996 after a number of leading agri-food businesses identified the need for an
independent body to provide the general public with information and education on the importance of agriculture and food to the Irish economy.
It says it is looking forward to working with Daniel in the future to further communicate and build more awareness around the important work farmers do in producing sustainable produce to the highest animal welfare standards.