Almost 3,000 Essex primary schoolchildren have enjoyed the county’s schools food and farming day. The event was held on June 18 and staged at Writtle College, near Chelmsford. Organised by the Essex Agricultural Society, Writtle’s centre for environment & rural affairs and the county council, the aim was to give children a better understanding of the food chain and the role played by farming in Essex.

Two hundred farmer and grower stewards from the local food and farming community guided groups of schoolchildren through the various activities, giving them direct contact with local food and farming.

Guy Smith, Essex farmer and chairman of the event steering group, said: “At first glance Essex can seem a very urban county but if you look a bit more closely you will notice there is a lot more green on the map than there is grey. Most of that green space is managed by farmers for producing food and for conservation.

“In a rather busy county like Essex it is vitally important that, through schools, farmers reach out to the next generation who are both future consumers and the future countryside users. It is important to explain to young students how and why we, as farmers, go about looking after the Essex countryside so that it is productive, bio-diverse and beautiful.

“It is particularly rewarding that when the Essex Agricultural Society, in partnership with Writtle College and Essex County Council, put on an event like the Essex Schools Food and Farming Day we get such a brilliant response from the schools - this year we were full within days. As farmers we are very proud that non-farmers take such an interest in what we do and want to know more."

Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex County Council, added: “Essex is an important agricultural county employing thousands and feeding millions. It was very rewarding to help our children understand and preserve this landscape and I am sure the youngsters attending this year’s event will be fascinated to see how agriculture shapes the countryside, providing us with access to open spaces and recreational activities which help to promote healthier lifestyles.”

The event was split into a trail around five zones - machinery, crops, livestock, food and countryside and environment - each of which encompass a key element of the food and farming story. Exhibits, provided by local and regional organisations, featured hands-on activities including milling wheat and sausage making, cookery demonstrations using local produce, fruit and vegetable identification and tasting, spinning and willow weaving activities, insect and bird recognition games, livestock displays, milking demonstrations and farm machinery demonstrations.