Students contested the LEAF food and farming contest at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi

After a fiercely contested competition between five UK secondary schools, Laurus Ryecroft in Manchester was named ‘Food, Farming and Natural Environment School of the Year 2021’.

The national competition, run by LEAF Education in collaboration with Coleg Cambria, aims to shine a light on sustainable farming and food production through experiential on-farm experiences for young people.

The weekend, which took place at the Llysfasi campus, saw students and staff work with LEAF Education representatives, college lecturers, the farm manager and industry experts to debate the motion – ‘Farming can become carbon neutral in the future’.

Students discussed this complex issue in detail and used their understanding and knowledge to present an evidence-based response to the hypothesis, which they presented to a panel of judges.

The action-packed weekend also saw pupils take part in hands-on activities, such as milking, tractor driving, habitat management, woodland management, lamb selection and soil analysis – all linked to efficient farm practices, including carbon sequestration and renewable energy.

LEAF Education Director of Education and Public Engagement, Carl Edwards, said: “Each school was more than worthy of their place in the final, but it was the group of students from Laurus Ryecroft that stood out the most.

“We were impressed by how they linked every experience they had to supporting their strong belief that the farming industry can become carbon neutral by 2040. Having had zero experience on farm before, the judges were blown away by how quickly and competently these three young adults understood what our industry is doing to tackle the climate crisis. Congratulations to everyone, not just the winning school but to all those who took part.”

The Food, Farming and Natural Environment School of the Year competition, launched by LEAF Education in 2018, aims to engage and inspire future generations about farming and food production through transformative and meaningful on-farm experiences.

Mr Edwards added: “We would like to thank Coleg Cambria Llysfasi for their ongoing partnership in the weekend – not only in providing a stimulating and first class setting for our finalists but also to the staff for their enthusiasm and vision in seeing the much wider benefit this competition has delivered for the farming sector and for all land-based colleges across the UK.”

Elin Roberts, Assistant Principal and Llysfasi Site Lead, added: “It was great to welcome competitors from all over the UK at Llysfasi. It was a real pleasure to witness such enthusiasm and love that young people have for the environment, food production and farming. There is a real passion amongst young people to see farming and the environment be safeguarded for future generations, and along with LEAF Education, Llysfasi is grateful of this partnership to teach the young people about the activities in sustainable livestock production, woodland management and how agriculture can enhance the environment.”

The five finalists participating were:

  • William Howard School, Cumbria
  • The Market Bosworth School, Leicestershire
  • Laurus Ryecroft, Manchester
  • Pipers Corner School, Buckinghamshire
  • Ysgol y Preseli, Pembrokeshire