Agri Aware is an independent agri-food educational body based in Dublin. Their role is to improve the image and understanding of agriculture, farming and the food industry among the general public.
Up until recently Agri Aware has only worked within Ireland, promoting the importance of Irish Agriculture to schools and consumers. However, in 2016 the Ulster Farmers’ Union became a patron of Agri Aware with the aim of extending their coverage to Northern Ireland and the promotion of Northern Ireland agriculture.
Bridging the urban-rural divide, so that the consumer of all ages understands the value and importance of farming and the agri food industry has always been a key issue for the UFU Rural Affairs Committee. We all eat food and we all need farmers and the industry but we need to ensure that consumers are informed so they can make informed purchasing decisions.
On the back of Brexit, industry will face new challenges and public support is critical to ensure long term sustainability. We need to shout about the fact that farmers deliver safe, quality sustainable and traceable food at an affordable price for consumers and their families, whilst also caring for the countryside.
Part of the work of Agri Aware includes a primary school resource- Dig In! It contains lesson plans dealing with different aspects of farming that are linked closely to the curriculum. It covers issues such as sectors of farming, healthy eating, farm and countryside safety, CAP and food security.
The UFU has always recognised the importance of teaching children about agriculture and the role it plays in their lives – giving them the tools to become educated consumers in adult lives. With this in mind the UFU has been working with Agri Aware to develop a Northern Ireland version of Dig In! and hope to have a copy sent to all Primary and Special Schools in Northern Ireland in June 2017.
A great deal of work has gone into this but the UFU is really excited about this initiative and hope to soon work on further initiatives like this in partnership with Agri Aware.