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Farmers learn how to make pupils' day

The 80,000 pupils in Scotland's north-east agricultural heartland are being encouraged to a better understanding of the business and environmental issues in farming.

Farmers, landowners and agri-businesses in the three authorities comprising the former Grampian region are investing pound;50,000 in the Royal Northern Countryside initiative, which aims to provide a comprehensive package of resources for all 263 primaries and 38 secondaries.

Each school will be linked with a local farm as part of a scheme run through the Scottish Farm and Countryside Educational Trust. A resource box includes the organisation's CD-Rom, Agriculture and the Rural Environment.

The launch was held at Upper Kinknockie farm near Mintlaw. George Skinner, senior vice-president of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society - which has committed pound;17,000 and helped secure funds from local farms and businesses - said it was the most comprehensive initiative of its kind in the United Kingdom and should contribute to a better understanding between town and country.

"The events of the last two years in the beef industry have highlighted the urgency of establishing the traditional links between farmers and landowners with consumers for the long-term benefit of the industry," Mr Skinner said.

"Farming and food production have to be viable and sustainable to support all the other things which the public enjoy about the countryside. Without farmers and landowners, the countryside would become a wilderness," he added.

Fifty primaries have already been linked to local farms. Primary 5 from Dales Park, Peterhead, which is linked to Upper Kinknockie, were enthralled by their first visit, which brought them into close contact with newborn calves, lambs and foals.

Their teacher, Rosyln Noble, said that the link would be of great benefit. "Planning visits to coincide with classroom topics can often be a problem. The farm will be a really useful resource which can be visited during different seasons to highlight different activities relating to environmental studies. Being from town, the children are not used to seeing farm animals in real life, and they're really excited by the experience."

All farmers in the scheme are being briefed about making school visits relevant, interesting and safe. The briefings - and parallel in-service work with teachers - are being supported by the Grampian Education Business Partnership.

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