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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Program teaches children about life on the land

Jesse Clarke had been working as a science teacher for almost a decade when he decided to pursue life on the family farm in Phoenix Park, near Morpeth.

“I’d had enough of working inside all the time and felt like I needed a bit of a change,” he said.

“My father is older and wanting to slow down so it was perfect timing.

“He wanted to step away and I wanted a change, I’d always had an interest in farming so it all worked out well in the end.”

Mr Clarke then decided he wanted to share his passion and knowledge of life on the land with the younger generation.

He joined forces with his brother-in-law who is a tech expert to create ‘Growing Future Farmers,’ a farm-based agriculture and science program that teaches children about life on the land, while giving them a connection to country and community.

“My brother in law and I have always talked education and then when I left to work on the farm, we talked ideas and this program came about,” he said.

“It’s all about learning about science and farming, with technical components to tell the story of what the children have learnt.”

A year after the idea was born, the program was rolled out to local schools with the help of a grant from Maitland City Council.

“They learn anything to do with regenerative farming, such as how to grow their own vegetables, look after chickens and goats, conduct soil testing, tree planting, go on bug hunts and learn about the weather and role of insects in the farm ecosystem,” Mr Clarke said.

“I am passionate about it because I’m a farming nerd, I find it interesting and everyone should know a little bit about it.

“If we are going to look after the planet and each other, we need to know how to look after food in a sustainable way.”

Participating schools can either visit the farm, or have Mr Clarke attend their school to help transform their own garden.

“It’s all hands on, with the kids getting their hands dirty planting veggies and trees, collecting eggs and feeding the goats, the onus is on them and they have a lot of responsibility with jobs they have to do when they get to the farm,” he added.

“With their veggie plot, if they don’t weed and water it, it doesn’t get done.

“They take pride in their work and get excited when they see what they can take home for their families.”

There’s still plenty of room for other schools to join the program, with Mr Clarke saying the more children they have on the farm, the better.

“I think I like helping them learn because they are so enthusiastic,” he said.

“I was out at Pelaw Main Public School last week doing weeding and the children got so excited because a girl found a bug in the garden.

“It was heart-warming how excited they get about what they do, it’s amazing.”