A coalition of food, farm and education groups want Defra to use Environmental Land Management (ELM) funding to pay farmers who teach schoolchildren about food production and nature.
The 10 groups, led by the Landworkers’ Alliance and the Country Trust, have told ministers that public engagement is “essential to the success of ELM”.
The coalition warns if education payments are not accessible to all farmers across England, hundreds of thousands of children in urban areas who would benefit most from trips to the countryside could effectively lose out.
“As they currently stand, the incentives outlined in the ELM schemes are unlikely to have the desired impact without winning the hearts and minds of people across society, by helping them to understand their role in nature recovery, climate change mitigation and how our food choices shape the planet,” the coalition said in a statement to Defra.
One suggestion by the groups is that the public engagement options in Countryside Stewardship could roll over into new schemes, or new standards could be adopted.
Suggestion for SFI scheme
For example, under the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers and growers could be paid £1,250 for four two-hour school visits a year, as well as £500 for one open day for the public, with at least 30 people attending.
In addition, there could be incentives for maintaining footpaths and information boards to educate walkers about crops and wildlife management.
Jyoti Fernandes, from the Landworkers’ Alliance, said: “Increasing public awareness and understanding of the connections between food, farming and the environment is absolutely crucial if we want to achieve the kind of long-lasting sustainable change we so desperately need in our food and farming systems.”
Farmers Weekly has contacted Defra to request a comment.
The full list of groups backing the plan is: Landworkers’ Alliance, Country Trust, Sustain, Country Land and Business Association, CSA Network, the Harmony Project, Real Farming Trust, National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Food Ethics Council and Sustainable Food Trust.