Children take part in a potato project

Pupils Daisy Forbes,  Robyn Graham, Ellie Palmer and Amy Edgar, are pictured with Stuart Meredith, agronomist Wilson's Country; host farmer Derek Erwin, and Glenn Stewart, teacher Loughries Integrated Primary School
Pupils Daisy Forbes, Robyn Graham, Ellie Palmer and Amy Edgar, are pictured with Stuart Meredith, agronomist Wilson's Country; host farmer Derek Erwin, and Glenn Stewart, teacher Loughries Integrated Primary School

Northern Ireland’s leading potato packing business, Wilson’s Country, has joined forces with a Co Down primary school in order to provide a group of children with the unique opportunity of following the progress made by a commercial crop of ‘spuds’, from planting through to final harvest.

The pupils involved attend Loughries Integrated Primary School in Newtownards. Currently in P5, they will have moved on to the next academic year by the time the venture is completed.

The project entails three phases. The first was a presentation by Angus Wilson of Wilson’s Country in the class room. This was followed-up by a visit to a farm, managed by Newtownards potato grower Derek Erwin.

The visit took place on Tuesday May 14. It allowed the children to view a selection of the machinery used by Derek in planting and managing his crop.

They also got the opportunity to inspect the seed he was using on the day in question. And, of course the children also got a ‘close up’ view of the actual planting process.

“We will bring the children back to the same field to see the crop harvested. This should take place during September,” confirmed Wilson’s Country chairman, Angus Wilson.

“That we are aware of, a project of this nature has never been undertaken in Northern Ireland before.

“There is a growing disconnect between the general public and their sense of how the food they eat is actually produced.

“In our own small way, we are hoping to play a role in bridging this gap. We also wanted to make the project as enjoyable as possible for the children involved.”

While Angus was with the Loughries’ pupils in their classroom, they undertook a very initial survey to gauge the children’s actual knowledge of how potatoes were grown.

Angus Wilson continued: “It was all pretty informal stuff. But we were able to discern some interesting trends. First off, all the children knew that potatoes grow in soil. Approximately 90% of them eat potatoes. We were delighted to find this out. Not surprisingly, almost everyone in the class eats chips.

“Significantly, just short of 70% of the children knew that it takes around five months to grow a crop of potatoes with around half of the pupils in the class having some sense of just how much a crop of potatoes can yield at harvest.”

He continued: “But before even getting out into the field they have learnt, at first hand, that farmers have no option but to work with nature.

“And the reason they are fully aware of this is because we had to postpone the initial farm visit for a week because of bad weather.”

Mr Glenn Stewart is the P5 teacher at Loughries Primary School.

He commented: “We are delighted to be joining-up with Wilson’s Country in this way. It gives the children a real sense of the food they enjoy is actually produced.

“It’s also lots of fun for everyone involved.”

For further information, contact Angus Wilson on 07770 655641.