After a fiercely contested competition last weekend between five UK secondary schools, Laurus Ryecroft (Manchester) has won the prestigious title of “Food, Farming and Natural Environment School of the Year 2021”. The national competition, run by leading education organisation, LEAF Education in collaboration with Coleg Cambria, aims to shine a light on sustainable farming and food production through experiential on-farm experiences for young people.
The weekend, which took place at the Llysfasi campus, saw students and staff work with LEAF Education staff, college lecturers, the farm manager and industry experts to debate the motion: “Farming can become carbon neutral in the future”. Students discussed this complex issue in detail and used their understanding and knowledge to present an evidence-based response to the hypothesis, which they presented to a panel of judges. The presentations were delivered with a clear passion and support for the farming industry. They also demonstrated the grasp the students had gained of the issues and challenges facing the agriculture industry in its journey to net zero by 2040. The action-packed weekend also saw pupils take part in hands on activities, such as milking, tractor driving, habitat management, woodland management, lamb selection and soil analysis – all linked to efficient farm practices, including carbon sequestration and renewable energy.
LEAF Education Director of Education and Public Engagement, Carl Edwards, explained: “Each school was more than worthy of their place in the final, but it was the group of students from Laurus Ryecroft in Manchester that stood out the most. We were impressed by how they linked every experience they had to supporting their strong belief that the farming industry can become carbon neutral by 2040. Having had zero experience on farm before, the judges were blown away by how quickly and competently these three young adults understood what our industry is doing to tackle the climate crisis. Congratulations to everyone, not just the winning school but to all those who took part!”
The Food, Farming and Natural Environment School of the Year competition, launched by LEAF Education in 2018, aims to engage and inspire future generations about farming and food production through transformative and meaningful on-farm experiences. It offers young people the chance to experience farming, bring them closer to how their food is produced, raise awareness of the role of farming in combatting climate change and the career opportunities available in the sector.
Carl Edwards concluded: “We would like to thank Coleg Cambria Llysfasi for their ongoing partnership in the weekend – not only in providing a stimulating and first class setting for our finalists but also to the staff for their enthusiasm and vision in seeing the much wider benefit this competition has delivered for the farming sector and for all land based colleges across the UK.”
LEAF Education launched the “Food, Farming and Natural Environment School of the Year” competition in 2018. Out of the 33 students who have taken part in the competition since its inception, more than a third (12) have gone on to apply to study at land-based colleges. All students reported that it had ‘positively changed their perception of the farming industry’ and that it had ‘helped them with their studies back at school’.
Head of School at Laurus Ryecroft, Martin Vevers, said: “Being involved with this competition has provided our students with opportunities they would not normally experience. To meet with inspirational speakers and to learn about sustainability in an academic and practical way is invaluable for them and us. For us to win National Innovation School of the Year just goes to show how much our young people value sustainability in food production and are keen to learn more.”
Elin Roberts, Assistant Principal and Llysfasi Site Lead, said: “It was great to welcome competitors from all over the UK at Llysfasi. It was a real pleasure to witness such enthusiasm and love that young people have for the environment, food production and farming. There is a real passion amongst young people to see farming and the environment be safeguarded for future generations, and along with LEAF Education, Llysfasi is grateful of this partnership to teach the young people about the activities in sustainable livestock production, woodland management and how agriculture can enhance the environment.”
The five finalists participating in the weekend were:
– William Howard School, Cumbria
– The Market Bosworth School, Leicestershire
– Laurus Ryecroft, Manchester
– Pipers Corner School, Buckinghamshire
– Ysgol y Preseli, Pembrokeshire