CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

The story behind schools launching their own farms

PUBLISHED: 17:24 29 April 2014

Cranleigh School

Cranleigh School

Archant

Taking pride in provenance isn’t a new thing for schools, but some have taken it a step further by launching their own farms. While several produce food for their own pupils, a few even supply their local community, as Matthew Williams discovers...

From the Spring 2014 edition of A+ education magazine

***

Kent College, Canterbury

There has been a young farmers’ club at Kent College since 1953 and such is its continuing popularity that the school now boasts a well-developed working farm extending to over 50 acres of pasture. “We farm a wide range of livestock, including a breeding herd of Sussex cattle, a small flock of Texel sheep and a free-range pig enterprise,” says farm manager Graham Palmer. “The farm is also home to numerous small animals including chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.” Found at the school campus in Canterbury, the farm site has recently diversified to include a dedicated equine centre, which provides livery and riding facilities for pupils at both the senior and junior schools. This centre is also home to a number of ponies, which are available for riding lessons for all levels as an extra-curricular activity. “We are proud that our current pupils still maintain an active and enthusiastic young farmers’ club today,” says Graham. “The club is open to any member of the school and activities are available to suit all tastes – even ‘fair-weather’ farmers!” The school community uses eggs and meat produced on the farm and their home-reared pigs produce what the college calls “happy sausages”. In addition, Kent College is always represented at the local ploughing match and the annual county show, where their animals often take pride of place and win numerous rosettes. “The local farming community, many of whom are alumni of the school, are keen to see the farming traditions of the school upheld and actively support the farm with advice and machinery,” says Graham. “We are proud that some of our students go on to be farmers of the future.” Thanks to these industry links, Kent College is also able to offer a course in environmental land-based science, making full use of the farm facilities and providing a real hands-on experience for the school’s students.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Lancing College, West Sussex

Established by biology teacher Jane Swan in 1983, as a modest off-shoot of the science department, Lancing College Farm is now a major operation on the South Downs that is often visited by other schools too.

When the farm first started out, pupils helped to clear scrub from the fields bordering the campus and built the fencing and pens. At that stage, however, the stock was limited to a few sheep, two Saddleback pigs, two suckler cows and some hens scratching around on a plot next to the science labs.

“In the early days, the staff at the college were assisted by local farmers, including Christopher Passmore who farms the land adjoining the college, and Derek and Vicky Crush, who are the organisers of many of the local farmers’ markets,” says farm manager, Jon Hutcheon. “Back then, pupils were involved in all aspects of animal husbandry, including the lambing, although undoubtedly fewer ‘Health and Safety’ boxes needed to be ticked in the same way as they do today!”

During the 80s and 90s, the farm flourished, with the stock rising to over 70 breeding ewes, six breeding sows and three suckler cows. Pupils also became actively involved with the management and decision making for the farm. Today, the farm is a 70-acre enterprise and no longer just an extra-curricular activity.

“Now we have not just a ‘farm project’, as it used to be called, but a fully working farm with a major forestry and woodland enterprise,” says Jon. “I’m keen to diversify and pupils can learn bushcraft and woodland skills, charcoal burning, market gardening and even jam making.”

As well as teaching modern farming methods, he is keen to revive hedge-laying, coppicing and green wood-working. Meanwhile, they produce mainly rare breed pork and a variety of lamb from a flock of over a hundred, which as well as going into the school kitchens is also marketed locally – and the sausages are renowned!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Cranleigh School, Surrey

Motivated by food shortages during the war and a desire for self-sufficiency, Cranleigh School was an early adopter of the school farm – although today the emphasis is very much on their state-of-the-art equestrian facilities.

“The school pond and, latterly, the school tuck shop are named Gatleys, which stems from the school’s farmlands which were once owned by a Mr Gatley,” says school archivist, Martin Williamson.

“The farmland came up for auction in 1946 and the governors paid £14,000 for the farm, buildings and 81 acres and invested around another £7,000 in livestock. This was entirely financed by loans, as an appeal was out of the question with the on-going war memorial appeal.”

Peas, ryegrass, winter oats and potatoes were planted and a herd of 30 Ayrshire heifers was purchased – pigs followed later. Agriculture was incorporated into the sixth form syllabus and boys helped at the farm. Post-war, however, few farmers were among the parents.

“The farm never made a profit – indeed, losses in some years ran into thousands,” says Martin. “It did supply the school with milk. As late as the early 1970s, large metal milk churns were hauled into the kitchens straight from the farm.”

When Marc van Hasselt took over as head in 1970, he felt the farm was no longer viable and closed it down, and in 1972 it was re-opened as the Sixth Form Centre.

“Although the farm was not a success, it did result in a substantial amount of land being bought and the benefits of this are perhaps the main legacy,” says Martin.

Cranleigh Equestrian Centre has made a home of this land with extensive riding facilities featuring over 60 acres of grazing and riding land, two floodlit all-weather arenas, a cross-country track and accommodation for up to 40 horses.

Riding is hugely popular among pupils, in both lower school and sixth form, and Cranleigh School is currently the NSEA National Schools’ Dressage Champions.

More from Surrey Life

Thu, 10:52

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wed, 16:05

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tue, 10:53

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tue, 10:47

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tue, 10:41

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Mon, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Mon, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Mon, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search