SFNEA Conference and Awards 2017

School farming can be a lonely business, after the students have gone, and it can sometimes feel like you are the only nutcase in the world getting up at 5am to go to the abattoir then coming back to teach a normal school day and do all the usual teachery things. However a colleague said exactly this in his own keynote speech at the School Farm Network Education Alliance (SFNEA) Conference, as well!

We attended the event for two purposes other than the incredible CPD and networking on offer; we were up for an award, and the British Pig Association invited us to help deliver their workshop on keeping pigs. The event was hosted at the Royal Agricultural University and day one was kicked off with several keynotes which highlighted the bigger picture for food and farming education across the UK. A variety of workshops were on offer, then the afternoon keynotes raised the bar even further. Adam Henson, of Countryfile fame but also still a 'proper farmer' as well, spoke emphatically about having a vision and purpose and making the most of opportunities on offer. Leigh Morris of the National Land-based College continued this theme of purpose and the importance of linking the various pieces of the land-based puzzle together to make a coherent plan for the industry's future. 

The awards dinner was an excellent chance to relax and catch up with friends old and new. Although Hunters Hill did not win in the category of 'Best Use of the School Farm in the Curriculum' we were beaten by the eventual 'Best School Farm (Overall), Brockhill Park, which is in Kent. This school farm is a model for us all to aspire to and they very much deserved their win, not least because they are generous in sharing both their experiences and resources with others. 

An early start on Saturday morning and we were whisked off to the brand new Farm491 Workshops. We attended a workshop on orchards and look forward to using this knowledge to restore the Cadbury family's historic orchard within the grounds of Cropwood House (more on our apple-related plans another time!). Finally it was our turn to present, the last workshop of the day. It was a privilege to be able to tell the story of our rare breed conservation project with the Junior Pig Club's British Landrace pigs, and how much the boys enjoy having them here at school. The future looks bright for the breed as there were a number of school farms interested in the project- there could be Spirehouse pigs all over the country by the end of next year! 

Hayley Simpkin