Cornwall Life looks at the benefits of Dig Down South West project

PUBLISHED: 12:38 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 20 February 2013

Cornwall Life looks at the benefits of Dig Down South West project

Cornwall Life looks at the benefits of Dig Down South West project

With the news that almost two-thirds of Cornish schoolchildren struggle to identify where their food comes from, Cornwall Life looks at the benefits of the Dig Down South West project, headed by television gardening expert Charlie Dimmock

With the news that almost two-thirds of Cornish schoolchildren struggle to identify where their food comes from, Cornwall Life looks at the benefits of the Dig Down South West project, headed by television gardening expert Charlie Dimmock


Across Cornwall, more and more schoolchildren are getting interested in and enjoying the social benefits of gardening and growing their own produce, but some recent research carried out in the Duchy suggested a surprising lack of knowledge when it came to their understanding of where their food came from.
Among the findings, some youngsters thought that beef burgers came from McDonalds or Burger King, eggs from sheep, that yoghurt was made using turkeys or ducks, ham came from the Co-op, bacon from horses, goats or peacocks, and cheese originated from butterflies, rats or mice. Considering that Cornwall is at the very heart of the UKs rural economy, we were really surprised by the findings, says Alan Goddard from Cornish Mutual. Given that were surrounded by a rich farming heritage and the countryside, I did expect more children to know about the origins of their food.


The truth is that children love getting involved in gardening and really get inspired by being outdoors and hands-on. After all, its good for them isnt it?



Cornish Mutual commissioned the survey and is supporting the new Dig Down South West campaign, which is aimed at all primary schools in Cornwall, to help create new vegetable gardens to encourage children between the ages of five and eight to take an active interest in growing their own. Alan says: Its really important that we reach children at this young age. Clearly many youngsters do have some understanding of the origins of their food but there are still some huge gaps in their knowledge. Were very hopeful this campaign will help build on what they already know.

The good news is that nearly 70% per cent of the youngsters questioned knew that you should eat five portions of fruit or vegetables a day as part of a healthy diet. Around 72% per cent of pupils in Cornwall had visited a farm before and just under two-thirds had grown their own vegetables.
Biscovey Infant School, near St Austell, is one of many across the county that has registered with the campaign. Launched in February, it supports schools in developing their own vegetable gardens as a key resource for teaching and learning, while providing access to information on growing vegetables in schools, as well as practical activities. Were really supportive of the campaign, says head teacher Richard Hope-Pears. We were involved from the beginning and hope to grow with it. As a school, we are really supportive of any initiatives that encourage children to become involved in growing their own food and raising awareness of healthy eating. We want to be part of the campaign for the longer term it goes a long way in firing-up childrens imaginations and I think its a really engaging and interactive way for youngsters to learn.
When Richard joined Biscovey Infant School 20 years ago it was his ambition to get his pupils interested in food and where it comes from. He says that Biscovey is the first infant school in the country to have its own teaching kitchen. Growing vegetables is very close to our hearts. The whole ethos for the school is about sharing with children the idea of growing, preparing and enjoying food its a key life skill. Growing fruit and veg has very much been a priority for us for the last two to three years.


Dig Down South West is aimed at primary schools to create new vegetable gardens and encourage pupils to grow their own



Responsibility for the schools garden is being shared; parents, teachers and children are all getting involved. Were now in the process of building a new sensory garden with help from the parents, says Richard. Were also looking to develop a small orchard and wed like to get a small polytunnel so we can grow throughout the seasons.
Charlie Dimmock, the well-known TV personality and gardening expert, is spearheading the new Dig Down South West campaign. The truth is that children love getting involved in gardening and really get inspired by being outdoors and hands-on. After all, its good for them isnt it? It provides the opportunity for them to be creative and the children can see the progress of what theyre growing, and in the process of growing they learn a whole lot more.

Charlie adds: If we dont encourage the young, these things wont exist anymore. Many children have parents who arent gardeners themselves and were hoping to fill that knowledge gap. I believe that gardening is a life skill and if every child knows how to grow plants and look after them, that would make a fabulous difference. A school garden enables children to learn in different ways and gives a practical element to learning, and its fun.
She says it doesnt take a huge amount of effort, money or land to establish a small garden. What you dont want to do is get over enthusiastic and take too much on, so start off growing a limited selection of fruit and vegetables. They can be grown in tubs,


res, wooden boxes, pots and even old rowing boats! You can be a complete novice, and growing veg like onions, potatoes, peas and beans can be the result of enthusiasm as much as skill.
Biscovey Infant School is a good example of where children are growing vegetables, fruit and flowers in boxes outside each classroom. Alan Goddard adds: As well as giving children happy memories of getting stuck in and getting their hands dirty, the campaign is educational. Quite often, children spend little time outside the classroom and this gives the opportunity for them to feel good about themselves. Creating a garden at school can have positive results in many different ways. Weve been delighted with the success of the campaign so far.


Its about reconnecting young and old with where their food comes from and promoting the local food culture that we have in abundance in Cornwall



Charlie Dimmock thinks that nowadays children and adults tend to be distanced from the local environment because of the way we live. We travel to most places by car and children play in restricted ways so they have reduced access to the natural world, which means children and a lot of adults have little knowledge about the very common things around them even in Cornwall, surrounded by countryside, she says. Richard adds: We want the children at our school to learn that food doesnt just come out of packets or magically appear on the supermarket shelf. They need to know that someone has to grow, tend and cultivate food.
He is also working with a team from the Eden Project, who will visit the school and teach pupils about the need for sustainability. I think its essential and a fundamental part of the curriculum its a multisensory learning opportunity. Every aspect of the curriculum can be learned through food. A lot of knowledge will be retained by the children and it has an impact on their learning and well-being in later life.
Alan says that he wants to build on what children know, by getting them enthused about local produce. Its about reconnecting both young and old with where their food comes from and promoting the local food culture that we have in abundance here in Cornwall.


For further information about Dig Down South West visit www.digdownsw.co.uk

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