One of the highlights of the Scottish Crofting Foundation Gathering at Dingwall a couple of years ago was the enthusiasm and satisfaction of school children who participated in Planting to Plate.
A good many of us could look back on schooldays when the boys got gardening (while the girls sewed garments nobody dared wear) and it occurred to me that the main lesson learned was that the schoolmaster had the best-kept garden in the community. He alone tasted the harvest and the main satisfaction for the boys was escaping their school desks for an hour. Fortunately our crofting connections made sure we could still enjoy the unforgettable taste of new potatoes we had helped to plant, hoe and lift.
Back then, we took for granted the traditions of our own people – the year-round planting and harvesting, the oral traditions of song, music and storytelling, not to mention the healthy approach to nutrition that was our way of life. The words ‘organic’ and ‘additives’ hadn’t yet been invented and there were no discussions on avoidance of waste. It’s no use, however, just to look back with nostalgia while the world around us tries to wrap everything we eat in plastic and make us talk to each other via computers. Something has to happen to give our young people a more hopeful way of becoming healthier and more responsible adults.
The Crofting Connections project launched at Grantown in September 2009 opened up a world of opportunity for school children to develop a way of life that will be infinitely healthier for future generations. I was privileged to join a discussion with a group of teachers from six schools taking part in the pilot and it was utterly inspiring to discover their total commitment and the sheer joy reflected as each gave a report of their involvement. Such imagination and creativity, with photos and films of youngsters preparing ground, discussing their plans, planting and tending their crops with a sense of care and anticipation of a harvest that would not simply feed them for a day but could be shared among many. Best of all, there was a real sense that this immensely enjoyable project offered the key to a way of life that could make a real difference in a world that threatens their generation with diabetes and obesity.
I can smile now as I look back on school days where nobody ever discovered what happened to that bean sprouting behind a piece of blotting paper in a beaker – one of those science teachers told me that they were all thrown in the bin! Well, at least we know. But best of all, Crofting Connections gives some assurance that today’s children can enjoy the most important lessons of their school days in a project that gives them the satisfaction of growing food that does not cheat them of the good health and nutrition. At the same time, they can also enjoy surrounding traditions of songs, stories, tunes and dances that are all part of that way of life. We can be truly proud of the team who laid the groundwork and delivered the Crofting Connections project.
Crofting Connections patron