A NEW food and farming education group designed to 'inform and engage with schoolchildren' is being proposed for Argyll and Bute.

To discuss the idea, farmers, crofters, landowners, teachers, early years providers and anyone involved in agriculture or the land use sector have been invited to an open meeting in Inveraray next week, organised by NFU Scotland in partnership with the Royal Highland Education Trust, with the aim of expanding the existing RHET network of 12 countryside initiatives across Scotland to include Argyll and Bute.

Working with volunteers who are directly involved with farming and other rural industries, RHET provides children with the opportunity to visit a working farm and to hear first-hand how their food is produced and how the countryside is managed. Where farm visits aren’t possible, RHET use a network of volunteers to engage in classroom visits, as well as providing a range of teaching resources.

In attendance at the Inveraray meeting will be RHET board chairman, George Lawrie, and RHET chief officer Katrina Barclay, to give an overview of the work of RHET and to explore the option of setting up a group in Argyll.

Mr Lawrie said: “It has never been more important to encourage young people to learn more about where their food comes from and get a better understanding of the countryside around them. By getting involved in the work that RHET delivers, whether it is through volunteering to host a class of pupils on your farm or become a classroom speaker, you will help send out the positive message about modern Scottish farming and the role we play in the environment around us.

“We have a great network of trained contractors who support both the teachers and the farmers to ensure everyone gets the most from the activity, including producing a risk assessment and props to take into schools.”

Argyll and the Islands regional chairman, John Dickson, who farms on Bute, is getting behind the formation of a RHET Argyll group. He said: “RHET has done a fantastic job in other parts of the country, engaging and informing schoolchildren of all ages about the journey that food takes from farm to fork and the role farmers play in looking after our countryside.

“Currently, Argyll and Bute is the only part of Scotland that does not have a local RHET group. With the help of farmers and crofters, and others involved in the land use sector, we now have an opportunity to change that and make sure that the fantastic story we have about the unique way we farm in these parts reaches the next generation of consumers. I would urge those with an interest in being involved to come along to the meeting in Inveraray and help us."

NFUS regional manager Lucy Sumsion added: “If you want to ensure that children in Argyll and Bute are able to learn about food, farming, crofting and the countryside then this meeting in Inveraray on May 28 is your opportunity to make sure it happens.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk