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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher

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November 2018

November 2018

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Soil Sampling
cattle
grainstore
girls & orphans

Farming Studies for KS3 & older students

Farming Studies

Arrive at Rushall Manor Farm (The Black Barn) RG7 6DS. Coach parking is available. A number of typical farming timetables can be downloaded as PDF files but most schools choose from these activities.

Soil Sampling

A chance to get dirty as we look at 3 types of soil on the farm. The trailer drops the students at the top of the farm at Annis field (permanent pasture) where the students get to investigate the properties of both clay and sand and draw their own conclusion about the suitability of these soil types for agriculture, the importance of the land for farmers and finding the best use for each soil. A short walk past the chalk wall and it’s associated soil profile takes us down into the valley and a chance to look at the loam in Owl Pit Field and compare it with the soil types already seen. The walk is useful in understanding some of the scale of the farm.

The aims of this activity are:

  1. Hands on investigation of different soils on the farm.
  2. Describe and record different soils and relate these to how the land is being farmed.
  3. To use appropriate fieldwork techniques and equipment (i.e soil auger or spade & permeability testing equipment).

Download the Soil Sampling worksheet

Crop rotation

Following on from the soil exercise we link in to maintaining the fertility of the soil. After a brief explanation that explains that some crops take the nutrients away from the soil when they are grown whilst others are helpful in putting goodness back in. The students then get to compete to put together a suitable 6 year crop rotation designed to maintain the long-term fertility of the soil, prevent disease build up, make some money & feed the livestock. When to play the bonus manure card always promotes debate. The students finally have to explain how their rotation would work and benefit the farm.

The aims of this activity are:

  1. To learn about the different crops we grow.
  2. To introduce the idea of maintaining the fertility of the soil using rotational farming.

Land Use & Diversification

Students are given the challenge of presenting plans for diversification in a farming/countryside setting. Group work is carried out by undertaking a guided walk which looks at key points around the farm where students learn how the farm contributes to conservation to protect and enhance the local environment. At the same time they look for practical/financial issues involved before presenting a plan for further diversification.

The aims of this activity are:

  1. Collecting evidence to show what benefits there are to the land being managed in a particular, non-conventional farming way. How the environment is changing under human management and influence.
  2. Comparing pictures of farming past & present.
  3. Working as a team.
  4. Exploring the ideas of diversification and sustainable management along with some of its implications.

Diversification booklet

Planting Crops at Rushall Farm / Use of Machinery

Students are shown the agricultural machines in the farmyard and encouraged to think about the jobs that need doing, which machine does them and at what time of the year. The focus is on the plough (soil preparation), seed drill (sowing), grass harrow (weeding), combine harvester (reaping & threshing) and the grain store (storage). Hopefully by the end the students will have an understanding of what machine does what and when and what happens to all the grain produced (sold, fed to livestock & kept back for planting). Comparisons will be made from today’s machinery to those used in the past and what this means to agriculture. The highlight is a chance to sit in the combine harvester.

The aims of this activity are:

  1. Understand the importance of machines on modern farms.
  2. Consider the detrimental effects they may have in terms of energy, pollution etc.
  3. Understand how farming has changed.

Download the Machinery worksheet

Arable Inputs, Processes & Outputs

Focusing on the arable side of the farm, what inputs & outputs are there and how do these equate to the pastoral side of the business. Which processes are carried out by the farm staff, what do we grow e.g. oats, wheat, barley, and what are they used for? What is silage & how bad does it smell? How does it differ from hay and straw and what is the difference between these?

Organic Shop

Without bias to either system what are the benefits of organic and conventional farming? Which gives us tastier produce, how does that produce look, which is better for us, the farmers, the livestock and also the environment? Which system produces the most, and which produce costs the most?

Woodland Trail

A beautiful walk through some ever changing ancient woodland. Finding folders & artefacts on the way which provide information on the following issues. There used to be a lot more trees. Are they important & what happened to the ones that have gone? What type of trees are there at Rushall, are they valuable, is the wood wild and what does the wildlife want? Explore the idea of sustainable management and its implications for people, places and environment and most importantly climate change.

The Livestock

What animals do we have at Rushall Farm, what breeds are they, why do we have them all and where do they end up? How many cows and sheep are there and how do we look after them under an organic system? What are the inputs, Processes & Outputs associated with the livestock side of the farm? A chance to interact with the hand reared lambs and also the cattle, chickens and pigs on the farm. Also the opportunity to meet the donkeys, not part of the commercial farm but old hands at school visits. All visitors to the farm love meeting the livestock and it’s important that they know that for the most part these animals aren’t pets but are an important part of the commercial viability of the farm. Always a good opportunity to discuss poo.

The aims of this activity are:

  1. Opportunities for contact between humans and other animals.
  2. Establishing where people’s meat comes from, welfare and husbandry issues.
  3. Recognise changes in practices and management since organic conversion and how this affects them.
  4. The economic situation.

These farm visits can run throughout the year and it is normally possible to fit 7 out of the 8 activities into the day with either Organic Shop or the Woodland Walk being the one dropped. During lambing the visit would be very similar but with the added bonus of a chance to hold the hand reared lambs and hopefully see lambs being born.

Downloads

Risk assessment all sites for school visits to Rushall Farm

Risk assessment for KS3 & KS4 Farming