Hundreds of school pupils from Ayrshire were given the opportunity to learn about food, farming, and the countryside at an estate near Cumnock with royal links.
Young people from a dozen primary schools were invited to attend The Spring Festival of Farming at Dumfries House, the headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation.
At the festival, children had the opportunity to learn about a range of topics, including caring for animals, growing fruit and vegetables, dairy farming, wool-spinning skills, and how an auction operates. They had the chance to meet turkeys, geese, hens, ducks, chickens, bees, sheep, and pigs. Quality Meat Scotland, Police Scotland, and Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) assisted in delivering the event.
Arianne Knowles, food, farming and horticulture manager at Dumfries House, said: "We welcome thousands of school pupils to our estate each year to learn about animal husbandry, the provenance of food, and preparing and cooking vegetables from our education garden.
“The Spring Festival of Farming offered an opportunity for school teachers and pupils to engage, in a single day, in a wide-ranging array of workshops and experiences that will complement classroom learning in primary schools and provide children with engaging, hands-on activities that helped bring to life and enhance their understanding of food, farming, and the countryside."
Elaine Bryson, RHET Ayrshire and Arran project co-ordinator, said: "Last year’s inaugural Spring Festival of Farming at Dumfries House was a great success, so we decided to invite even more children to enjoy it this year. In total, we had 70 volunteers and just under 500 children.
“Dumfries House estate is the best classroom in the world. All the animals are here and the children have an opportunity to see a great variety of countryside life.
“RHET and The Prince’s Foundation are aiming for the same thing: to educate people about food and where it comes from and to raise awareness of the farmers and custodians of our land. People buying food in their shop might not think about the process of sourcing food, but the children visiting the estate now have a better understanding of that.”
Lucy Kirk, P4 teacher at Troon Primary School, said: “The kids have been entranced by it. It’s been a brilliant day. There’s such a variety of activities here. We’ve learned about how wool is made, learned about pigs, and seen horses having their shoes changed.
“Farming was a recent topic of ours so to come out and experience it is much more interesting than staying in the classroom. The children are responding really well to outdoor learning and Dumfries House is such a beautiful place to do that.”
Lizzie McJannet, P4 teacher at Ayr Grammar, said: “We’ve been focusing on farming topic at school and took part in visit to Sandyford Farm through RHET, who then got in touch about this event and we thought it would be great to teach the children about agriculture and where their food comes from.
“There are loads of aspects of science and things we couldn’t do in the classroom that the children are 9learning here. I’ve never been to the education farm at Dumfries House but the event has been very well-organised and I’ve been really impressed.”
Jackie McNair, P5 teacher at Forehill Primary School, said: “The kids have been looking at the cows, the sheep, and the lambs. Their favourite bit was the cocker spaniel gun dogs and the police tractor, and the horse getting a manicure before getting his shoes on. It makes it real and brings everything to life. I couldn’t praise the event organisers enough. The kids are right into everything.”
Dumfries House estate was saved for the nation by The Prince of Wales in 2007 and is now used to help people engage in learning experiences that promote confidence and personal development, as well as offer training in real-life skills to open up future employment opportunities. The Prince’s Foundation, formed last year as a result of the consolidation of Dumfries House Trust and other charities, has its headquarters at Dumfries House.
From modest beginnings, Dumfries House is now the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire with more than 250 full-time and part-time staff across the house, estate and education and training programmes.
The Spring Festival of Farming took place at Valentin's Education Farm on Dumfries House estate.
School staff can obtain further information on visits to Dumfries House estate by emailing email@example.com