Cattle farmer's virtual visits spark 'amazing' questions from children

Norfolk cattle farmer Helen Reeve with her Dexter cattle

Norfolk cattle farmer Helen Reeve has been helping to educate schoolchildren through virtual "Farmer Time" lessons - Credit: Helen Reeve

A Norfolk cattle farmer is teaching children about food using virtual school visits - which she says will remain a valuable educational tool as the world emerges from lockdown.

Helen Reeve, who runs the 60-strong Waveney Dexter Beef herd at Alburgh near Harleston, is also a work-based learning co-ordinator for agricultural apprenticeships at Easton College.

After responding to an appeal on social media, she joined the Farmer Time initiative, which uses video calls to educate youngsters about food's journey from farm to fork.

Miss Reeve was paired with a town-centre school in Northampton, and has so far made two virtual visits, with another planned next week.

She said she had been amazed by the children's response, and urged other farmers to join the online initiative which could help bridge a disconnect between food producers and consumers - particularly while physical farm visits remain difficult due to Covid restrictions.

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"Some of the questions are amazing," she said. "I've been asked why I wanted to become a farmer, at what age I decided that is what I wanted to do, and about the age of the animals and what breed they are - but last week they asked what types of grasses are there in the UK? For a six or seven-year-old to be asking questions like that is amazing.

"People in the farming world take these things for granted, but when you strip back the bare facts and tell it to someone, it makes you realise everyone wants to know about what goes on at a farm.

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"I would say if you are good at talking to people, and most farmers have got some ability in that area, if you have got a story to tell and are willing to share it, then get involved.

"Of course it is really nice to have people out on the farm in person. But we need risk assessments and public liability insurance in place for farm visits, and now with the added complication and challenges of Covid measures, it is a bit of a logistical nightmare to get it to work. By doing it virtually you can take all that risk out of it.

"Long-term, teachers will look at virtual tours on farms as a really good way of learning about the countryside without leaving the classroom."

Miss Reeve was speaking during Great British Beef Week, an annual campaign to showcase the sector, championed by the Ladies in Beef Group.

Farmer Time was founded by Cambridgeshire farmer Tom Martin and is co-ordinated by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).

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