Wilson’s Country, Northern Ireland’s leading potato business, has lined up with a primary school in Newtownards to show pupils how to grow potatoes, from planting through to final harvest.
Pupils in P5 at Loughries Integrated Primary School in Newtownards recently visited the farm in Holywood of Derek Erwin for a briefing by Angus Wilson, chairman of Portadown-based Wilson’s Country, a Food NI member company.
The visit enabled the children to view a selection of the machinery used by Derek in planting and managing his crop. They also got the opportunity to inspect the seed he uses. And, of course the children also got a ‘close up’ view of the actual planting process.
“We will bring the children back to the same field to see the crop harvested. This should take place during September,” said Angus Wilson. “That we are aware of, a project of this nature has never been undertaken in Northern Ireland before.
“There is a growing disconnect between the general public and their sense of how the food they eat is actually produced.
“In our own small way, we are hoping to play a role in bridging this gap. We also wanted to make the project as enjoyable as possible for the children involved.”
While Angus was with the Loughries’ pupils in their classroom, they undertook a very initial survey to gauge the children’s actual knowledge of how potatoes were grown.
Mr Wilson added: “It was all pretty informal stuff. But we were able to discern some interesting trends. First off, all the children knew that potatoes grow in soil. Approximately 90 percent of them eat potatoes. We were delighted to find this out. Not surprisingly, almost everyone in the class eats chips.
“Significantly, just short of 70 percent of the children knew that it takes around five months to grow a crop of potatoes with around half of the pupils in the class having some sense of just how much a crop of potatoes can yield at harvest.”
He continued: “But before even getting out into the field they have learnt, at first hand, that farmers have no option but to work with nature.
“And the reason they are fully aware of this is because we had to postpone the initial farm visit for a week because of bad weather.”
Glenn Stewart, P5 teacher at Loughries Primary School, added: “We are delighted to be joining-up with Wilson’s Country in this way. It gives the children a real sense of the food they enjoy is actually produced.
“It’s also lots of fun for everyone involved.”
Enjoying their day out were from left: Daisy Forbes, P5/P6 group; Robyn
Graham, P5/P6 group; Stuart Meredith, agronomist Wilson’s Country; host
farmer Derek Erwin, Glenn Stewart, teacher Loughries Integrated Primary
School, Ellie Palmer, P5/P6 group and Amy Edgar, P5/P6 group.