The past few decades have seen dramatic changes within the farming industry. Farmers have had to adapt to make a living, with production happening on a significantly larger scale and a growing number of farms forced to specialise or diversify. A number of factors have influenced this shift. These include mechanization, an increasingly competitive global market, a changing economy and higher populations.
Within living memory, farmers would have carried out the majority of farm work by hand, with the help of horses. Harry, a farmer in Zennor remembers when their small herd was milked by hand. He has since witnessed increasingly growing herd sizes (with some now up in the thousands) with milking parlours to match and even the introduction of robotic milking machines. Another farmer near St.Ives, Heather, remembers when most farms would have had a mix of livestock and crops. She, like many farmers, has now had to specialise to survive. Arthur, who farmed his whole life, recalls working his field with horses. Since buying his first tractor, Arthur has seen machinery grow at a phenomenal rate. John, a farmer near St.Wenn, fondly remembers harvest time, when large thrashing machines would visit each farm. This job, which brought together the community and required around 20 people, can now be carried out by one man in a combine harvester.
This Activity Pack is the result of a 2-year project that has documented some of the changes witnessed by the farming industry over the past few decades. Thanks to the time and goodwill of farmers around Cornwall we have been able to record the stories of those who have lived through these changes. These interviews have been edited down to 2-3 minute clips, with images added to create a series of digital stories.
The aim of this pack is to provide a personal and accessible way to explore different aspects of our farming heritage. Considering and exploring the past is important in helping children to develop their decision making skills for the future.
Whilst all these stories were created working with farmers in Cornwall, we hope this pack can also be used elsewhere in the UK. Cornwall has a strong regional identity with its own language, flag and cultural traditions, maintained by its location as a peninsula in the far South West of the UK. It is worth considering your own region’s identity and culture in relation to land use and traditional and contemporary farming practices. If you are outside of Cornwall it may be useful to begin with a discussion about some of the differences between farming in Cornwall and farming where you are. In Cornwall field sizes are often much smaller than other parts of the UK. Transport links and the climate are other factors which shape the way farmers work their land there.
Activities in this pack cover different areas of the 2014 National Curriculum but focus on 3 central areas; English, History and Art. Within English we have included activities that incorporate a number of writing genres. These include storytelling, creative writing, recounting, letter writing, undertaking research and creating information texts. History concentrates on social and community history, tracing farming from the early 20th Century to the present day. The activities may also link to a local history study e.g. of an aspect of history on a site that is significant to the locality. This pack has been produced by working alongside Visual Artists and so uses a range of creative techniques to further learning through Art. Some of the photographs you will see show some of the work produced when these artists visited schools around Cornwall. There are also links to human and physical geography (including types of settlement and land use).