Flour power is the message for pupils from schools across the region who are attending a special countryside event this week.
With severe grain shortages and bread more expensive than it has ever been, the youngsters will be focusing on cereals – how they are grown and how they are made into the foods that end up on their tables.
Almost 2,000 youngsters from 40 schools will attend the Children’s Countryside Day organised by the Glendale Agricultural Society (GAS) on Thursday.
The Glendale area near Wooler, Northumberland, is one of the foremost grain-producing areas in the UK and the children, aged from five to nine, will learn which cereals make their bread, cakes, pasta, their rapeseed oil and many other stable items.
There is also a competitive element to the day and each school will bring decorated biscuits made using local produce and cereals.
Roddam WI members have made flour dough pendants for each child to decorate and take home. The youngsters will learn how cereals are grown, how they are harvested and turned into flour and then into the food we eat.
They will meet the farmers, see machinery, grind the wheat and have the opportunity to bake bread with the Great Northumberland Bread Company.
To date, more than 20,000 children have been educated by the award-winning Children’s Countryside Day and GAS organisers believe this is an ideal way to pass on the message about where food comes from and how it gets from the farm on to the fork.
Event manager Ruth Oldfield, describing the background to this year’s theme, said: “The past 12 months have been the worst on record in terms of rain, and the difficulties facing the arable sector are immense.
“There are severe grain shortages and bread is more expensive than it has ever been, so the society felt that flour power was a fitting theme for this year’s event.
“Flour used to be seen as the vital ingredient in people’s diets and we want to remind children how important it still is.”
Simpsons Malt’s exhibit will describe the role of barley in the food chain with particular reference to malt products and Berwick-based Silvery Tweed Cereals will show samples of wheat, barley, processed grains, flakes and flour.
They will also provide samples of end products where various grains processed by them have gone into making breads, muesli, granolas and flavoured flakes.
Managing director Robert Gladstone said: “Silvery Tweed Cereals are pleased to be involved with the Children’s Countryside Day as it is key that children understand where their food and drink come from and how important it is to understand the link from farm to fork.
“As a local producer of cereal ingredients for the UK food ingredients market, we live in one of the best cereal-growing areas in the UK.
“It is important to us that local children are aware of what takes place in the area that they live, as after all, they are consumers of some of our customers’ end products.”
Hannah Hubb, chairwoman of the countryside day committee, stressed the importance of the event in terms of the children’s education.
She said: “Since the first countryside day nine years ago, we have educated more than 20,000 children, and we know that it is a day that children remember for the rest of their lives. There are a huge number of stands to see, and things to learn.”
Ruth added: “Among other things we make a huge effort to ensure that the children know where their food comes from, for example, that Ribena is made from blackcurrants, bread and fajitas from cereals, crisps from potatoes and chilli con carne from beef cattle.”
Urban and rural schools are invited to attend the day, with a good cross-section from Blyth, Ashington and Cramlington in Northumberland, North Tyneside is also represented and all the children benefit enormously from their day out in the country.
Hannah said: “We have 60 exhibits and the children are able to move around them in small groups and take part in an activity or ask questions in a fun and informal environment.
“This year they will be able to share the experience of every part of the life of wheat – from growing, harvesting, grinding and baking into bread.”
The day is organised by a small volunteer committee with one part-time member of staff and it is a real community event. All the exhibitors and stewards – approximately 250 individuals – give their time free, and enjoy it along with the children.
The Children’s Countryside Day costs Glendale Agricultural Society more than £25,000 to stage each year and this year the event has received new funding of more than £10,000.
The Adderstone and Davidson Funds at the Community Foundation awarded grants of £8,000 and £1,000 respectively and other new supporters include Bond Dickinson, Alnwick Round Table and Northeast Grains.
Existing supporters include Sir James Knott Trust, the Hadrian Trust, The Joicey Trust, De Claremont Charitable Trust, Northumberland Estates, the Border Riding School and the Northumberland Uplands Leader Project.
Event manager Ruth Oldfield is hugely appreciative of this support.
She said: “From its inception, our aim as a society was to give children first-hand experience of rural life and an insight into the importance of farming and the countryside.
“Budgets are being increasingly tightened, but thankfully we have managed to secure funding to ensure that the schools can continue to attend free of charge.
“We are extremely lucky to receive such a high amount of support in kind from local businesses and local people in the community; however, we still need financial resources for the basic infrastructure of the event.”
Flour used to be seen as the vital ingredient in people’s diets and we want to remind children how important it still is