Manor Farm is a 121 acre organic farm in Long Whatton, Leicestershire. It undertakes a mixture of livestock rearing (beef cattle and sheep) and crop production (what, beans and oats). The farm also has areas of historic ridge and furrow landscape, hay meadow and wetland, as well as a farm shop selling organic produce.
Educational visits have been a feature of the farm for over 10 years. The majority of these involve groups from primary schools (12 per year), but recent years have also seen an increase in groups from secondary schools (3 per year) in connection with the Applied Science GCSE. From time to time, Manor Farm also hosts visits from brownies, guides and scouts staying at nearby campgrounds. All visits make use of the farm’s educational facilities, which include a farm trail, an on-site classroom and toilet/handwash facilities.
A typical secondary school visit for Year 10 Applied Science students takes place over a morning. It starts in the farm shop with discussion about a range of issues relating to organic food production and sustainability (see below). This is followed by a walk around the farm talking about many different aspects of organic versus conventional food production (see below). The specific topics covered are driven by teachers’ curriculum requirements and students’ interests on the day, and all visits are planned through a teacher pre-visit to the farm.
Key Ideas Discussed
Discussion in the farm shop
Looking around the farm
Animal welfare issues
Owners Graeme and Vivienne Matravers see organic farming as a positive approach to farming, and the farm as a whole system in harmony with nature. A key idea in their educational work is that the decisions people make as individuals can be hugely influential. As Graeme explains, ‘I stress that the only reason that we are in existence is because customers buy what we produce. So if you want a countryside that is productive and healthy then you have to think carefully about what you buy. It’s about a holistic view of how the farm fits into the local community. In a word, sustainability – environment, global/local and economic’.
For the owners, the most significant benefit of a visit to Manor Farm is the opportunity to see and experience topics first-hand. For example, they feel strongly that the best way for GCSE students to develop an understanding of the nitrogen cycle is in a field of clover. Similarly, ‘if you want students to appreciate the differences between organic and conventional agriculture, the only thing to do is to go and see two of these farms’.
It is not only learning about food, farming and sustainability. Another beneficial dimension, especially for the secondary age group, comes through engaging with another adult and learning how to behave on someone else’s business property. In other words, ‘It’s also an experience of the world of work, needing to show respect in engaging with a business person’.
For primary school pupils, the simple experience of coming to the countryside is significant and stimulating. This is particularly so for children from schools in central Coventry and Derby, who have little or no experience beyond the inner-city.
Graeme and Vivienne Matravers
77 Main Street
T: 01509 646413