Conserving, preserving and where our food comes from

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Having celebrated its 10th birthday last year, the 2015 Children’s Countryside Day took its young visitors into the Northumbrian pantry last week.

The ground-breaking countryside education initiative, organised by the Glendale Agricultural Society and which teaches children about farming, food and the environment, showed off the range of foods that the farms and waters of the county produce.

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. St Pauls of Alnwick learn about spinning from Jane Panton of North Northumberland Spinners.

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. St Pauls of Alnwick learn about spinning from Jane Panton of North Northumberland Spinners.

More importantly, it got children to look at the ways people have adopted over the years to store and preserve food, so that they can be enjoyed throughout the year, and not just at the time of harvest.

Chairman of the Children’s Countryside Day, Andrew Reed, said: “Our aim is to build foundation stones to encourage children’s interest in the countryside and possible careers for the future.

“Of course we also hope that they learn one of the fundamentals of life, which is where their food comes from.

“For all of us who work on the Countryside Day, we feel it is a way of giving something back and if only half-a-dozen of these children come to work with us in the sector, it will be worthwhile.”

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. Keira Farrell of Amble First School learns how to play the Northumberland Pipes.

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. Keira Farrell of Amble First School learns how to play the Northumberland Pipes.

The event, held at the Society’s traditional Glendale Show site, just south of Wooler, featured a dedicated pantry area which demonstrated the breadth of opportunity for preserving food, while making it even tastier.

In evidence were smoking Craster Kippers, curing hams, preserve-making and food-drying. In an era where so much food is wasted, the aim was to show techniques that would avoid unnecessary environmental costs.

The Chefs Adopt a School delivered 10-minute tasting and sensory sessions throughout the day by a qualified chef – all aimed at teaching about good, healthy food, cookery, food provenance, nutrition and hygiene.

Event manager Ruth Oldfield said: “This year, we really wanted children to see how food was preserved before freezers, fridges and global food supplies, and before the use of artificial preservatives which are found in so many foods today.

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. St Pauls of Alnwick learn about wood turning from Ken and Peter the Medieval Woodturners.

Children's Countryside Day with Glendale Agricultural Society. St Pauls of Alnwick learn about wood turning from Ken and Peter the Medieval Woodturners.

“We started by looking at Northumberland’s amazing harvest. The hedgerows are homes to edible blooms and berries, the fields and hills to fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and mushrooms, grain and game. The rivers and sea are a fish lover’s delight.

“Whatever the season, there is a harvest thanksgiving somewhere. Rhubarb in April, asparagus in May, lamb in the spring, strawberries in the summer, game in the autumn, root vegetables in the winter.”

Before the event, the children had been asked to design a poster showing what they would have in their Northumbrian pantry.

Their posters were judged by North-East celebrity chef Terry Laybourne with first prize going to Coquet Park School, Whitley Bay, second place to Amble Links First School and third to Swansfield Park First School in Alnwick.

This year’s event was attended by 38 schools from across Northumberland and North Tyneside, who were educated and entertained by 65 exhibitors and more than 150 volunteers.