Natural fare is a tasty business
A farmers’ market results in cross-curricular learning and customer satisfaction. Jean McLeish reports
Portknockie Primary could be on to something with its concept of convenience food straight from the farm. This is the first farmers’ market held at Buckie High by the Associated Schools Group and 30 minutes after opening, the primary school’s enterprise group has sold out.
Their RecipeBags contain all the ingredients for a meal, including the recipe, for a family of four. At a canny £4.95, northeast mums and dads recognise a good deal and the RecipeBags for the children’s autumn vegetable Thai green curry have been flying off the shelves. They sell 38 in half an hour and a further 12 are pre-ordered.
At this rate, the young Moray entrepreneurs could be retiring by the time they’re 12. The children sourced the vegetables from Cruats Farm next to the school and they’ve cooked and tasted several curries before opting for this one.
So as well as saving the planet with low food miles, parents know they’re buying a healthy vegetable dish that’s been given the thumbs-up by children. And the kids have been learning throughout this interdisciplinary enterprise project and publicising their activities on their own website.
“It’s included all the core subjects. In terms of numeracy, we’ve worked on weights and money; in terms of literacy, we’ve looked at instructional writing, which includes recipes, so we’ve watched videos and tried to write recipes from that,” says class teacher Tom Hay.
His son, Conor, and Robbie Lawson from P6 are running a stall: “It was very tasty,” says Conor. “There were parsnips and vegetables, coconut milk, curry paste, rice and the recipe card in the bag.”
Hundreds of locals have poured into Buckie High to get the best buys at the town’s first farmers’ market.
Today’s event has been run by the schools with support from local farmers and food producers, the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative and the Royal Highland Education Trust, following a pilot farmers’ market held at Elgin Academy nearly two years ago.
The Scottish Government Food and Drink Industry Division has given funding for farmers’ markets in 11 Countryside Initiative areas in support of the National Food and Drink Policy, “Recipe for success”, and events such as this are being held at schools throughout Scotland.
“We’ve looked at good sources of food, healthy diets, food miles, seasonality of vegetables in the northeast: they’ve found it thoroughly engaging,” says Mr Hay.
There’s meat, game, fish, eggs and vegetables for sale, along with locally produced ice cream and chocolate, cheeses, jams and chutneys.
“It’s a good example of how learning can cover every aspect of the curriculum in one project, and you can use something other than a test to assess how much pupils have learned,” says Neil Johnson, headteacher at Buckie High.
A future in farming is not for everyone. Conor’s friend Robbie is unconvinced. “Too dirty,” he says.
Mr Johnson hopes that projects like these will show pupils how adding value to farm produce creates more employment. And not everyone needs to get their hands dirty.
FIRST, DIG THEM OUT OF THE GROUND…
For some children, working with fresh farm produce gave them their first opportunity to smell vegetables that hadn’t been pre-washed and packed in a plastic bag. Some had never seen vegetables still covered in soil.
But when pupils from eight feeder primary schools visited Buckie High’s home economics department to make soup from donated farm vegetables, they began to appreciate fresh produce.
“The key aims of this pilot project are to introduce pupils to the concept of local foods, allow them to learn how their food is produced, run an enterprise activity and encourage them to work as part of a team,” says Sheila Stuart, the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative’s project officer.
After an earlier project on fish, children began by investigating how food is grown and produced locally and how it gets to market. As well as organising the farmers’ market and selling produce, they’ve organised the catering and entertainment for visitors.
Portgordon Primary produced its version of a recipe in a bag, using oats donated by a local farmer, and children from Millbank Primary are selling a book of their favourite Scottish recipes.
Buckie High’s headteacher, Neil Johnson, says that projects like this give continuity to children’s learning throughout their education.
“What’s important for us is that for a long time we’ve seen transition as being a major thing that we have to look at. And some people would call this a transition project, but it’s not as far as I see it.
“It’s trying to promote the idea that learning continues through primary into secondary and that pupils will carry on doing this kind of work when they come into secondary school - it’s just the normal way of doing things.
“It’s not a change, they just change place. The way in which they’re doing their learning should be the same in primary compared with what they’re learning in their broad general education here in secondary school.”