Schools out for summer - a timely reminder

The summer holidays are greatly anticipated by school children who welcome a break from the classroom and many like to get stuck into helping on the farm during their holidays, writes policy officer Sarah Morrell.

Sunday, 11th July 2021, 1:45 pm

Whilst it is encouraging to see the next generation interested in farming and to have an extra pair of helping hands, it is very important to keep children safe and remember a farmyard is a busy and dangerous workplace – not a playground.

It is not always easy to supervise children and work on the farm at the same time, so parents/guardians should think about proactive measures they can put in place to help protect children from the dangers on farm. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) have provided a farm safety checklist for parents to help them keep their kids safe regardless of the time of year. Such measures include having a safe and secure play area for young children, preventing children from playing in or around machinery and livestock and keeping chemicals locked in a secure store when not in use.

A full list of guidance on making farms a safer place can be found on the HSENI website

Bank of Ireland Virtual Farm Weekend (BOIVFW)

A great way to keep children entertained over the summer holidays is by getting involved in Bank of Ireland’s Virtual Farm Weekend (BOIVFW).

This year the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) initiative will celebrate its tenth anniversary virtually from Friday 30 July to Sunday 1 August with an exciting line up of farms. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions visitors cannot physically attend farms this year, so instead, almost 30 farms will come directly to the public through Facebook live streaming and pre-recorded videos shown on Open Farm Weekend’s social media channels. The virtual event provides a great platform for the public to connect and engage with farms and food producers from across the province. Initiatives like BOIVFW are very important to tell our story as farmers, stewards of the land and to connect with our consumer.

During the course of the weekend viewers will be provided with a glimpse into all sectors within the agri-industry including arable, fruit and veg, dairy, beef, sheep and pigs and poultry.

UFU in conjunction with Agri Aware developed the ‘Dig in!’ teaching resource which is available to download from the UFU website. The resource has been well received by teachers, their unions and even parents during lockdown home schooling. As part Open Farm Weekend’s school’s engagement, the UFU in partnership with BOIVFW and Asda, challenged school pupils across Northern Ireland (NI) to “Dig in!” and put their creative skills to the test in celebration of the tenth event.

This year the schools’ competition received over 7000 entries and as always, the quality and creativity of the pupil’s entries did not fail to impress. The judges had a difficult task picking the winners, which will be announced on Friday 30 July.

Teaching children from a young age how food is produced is very important, and it is clear to see from the number of entries to the school’s competition that agriculture is an interesting topic for school children.

The rural affairs committee continue to consider new, exciting and relevant ways to inform children about the role of farms in producing food and taking care of the countryside and the environment. To get involved in BOIVFW visit the website at, follow the Instagram page and like the Facebook page where videos will be shown throughout the weekend and saved to view at a later date.