Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security on The Road!

Ailidh Mackay, Senior Recruitment & Admissions Officer

Ailidh Mackay and Susan Jarvis at the Royal Highland Show.
Ailidh Mackay and Susan Jarvis at the Royal Highland Show.

Hi ho, hi ho!  To Agri-Shows we go!

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security are spending the summer getting out and about meeting members of the public, prospective students and industry contacts at home and over the Irish Sea. 

First stop was the 150th Balmoral Show just outside Belfast.  Agriculture is a huge industry in Northern Ireland and with Brexit looming, its border-landscape is as interesting as its agricultural one.  Did you know that all milk sold in Marks and Spencer stores on the island of Ireland, comes from Northern Irish dairies? The weather was glorious for our 4-day trip and we took a range of interactive displays for all ages - and plenty of sun cream! 

Next up was the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston Showground outside Edinburgh – home turf!  We shared a stand with the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Roslin Research Institute.  Once again, the sun came out to play and visitors had fun building their Farms of the Future, exploring insects as an alternative source of protein, and considering the environmental impacts of food production.  Agricultural Science is an area of huge depth and breadth and we wanted to quiz people on their perceptions of the subject.

So we did just that.  We asked visitors to tell us what ‘Agriculture’, ‘Food Security’ and ‘Agricultural Science’ means to them… and the results will be used to inform how we translate the content of our degree programmes to different age demographics.  Perhaps not surprisingly, ‘Agriculture’ to most 0-10 year olds means some combination of animals, farming, tractors and sheep!  But no two words were repeated in the results when we asked them the same question about ‘Agricultural Science’ – it really got their imaginations going!    

The word association which returned the fewest results was ‘Food Security’.  What is Food Security?  It’s ensuring a supply of safe, nutritious and affordable food for all people at all times.  Interestingly, the people we talked to found the explanation very simple to understand, but the use of “security” in this context was problematic for many.  It can be easy to fall into a trap of assuming the language used within a particular sector is translatable to those outwith that area, and this exercise is a reminder that this is not necessarily always the case.  With this knowledge, we can now identify ways to more effectively communicate Food Security to a wider audience.

The GAAFS show stand
At the Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland

We will continue to gather responses and then look at ways to develop age-specific workshops around these themes which we can deliver to school groups via EBSOC, the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre. We will also be developing teaching resources which can be accessed by schools for teacher CPD or further training.

Next stop on our roadshow will be Countryfile Live in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace (2-5 August 2018) and then over to the Scottish Learning Festival (19-20 September 2018) at SECC in Glasgow.  Come along and say hello if you’re in the area, or follow our adventures on Facebook or Twitter.