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Come on down, farmers tell city kids

THE image of farmer Giles as a shotgun-toting grump ready to chase city kids off his land for not closing a gate is about to change.

A new education service, unveiled by the National Farmers Union and the Royal Agricultural Society, aims to take the classroom to the countryside. And farmers will be given free training in how to cope with and stimulate their young visitors.

As if Old MacDonald hasn't got enough on his plate, surviving foot and mouth, he now faces the prospect of his fields being overrun by pint-size apple scrumpers. The initiative aims to treble the number of children who don their wellies from the current level of 1.2 million a year.

RAS chairman Colonel Eddy York said: "We want the younger generation to understand the contribution farming makes to the food chain and maintaining the landscape."

What, then, of those hard questions about mad cow disease, salmonella, battery farming and barricading fuel depots with tractors?

Ecological evangelist Bill Graham, head of the initiative, said: "This is not about cuddly sheep and Peter Rabbit, this is about real education. We want students to engage in real debates and make up their own mind."

For more information on Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) www.foodandfarming.org.uk

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