LEADING farm education charity LEAF Education and Coleg Cambria Llysfasi have announced the start of their national competition to crown this year’s innovation school of the year in food, farming and environment.

The competition, supported by Waitrose & Partners, aims to engage young people with farming, food production and the natural environment. Secondary schools from across the UK are being urged to enter the competition to win an exclusive weekend experience on a real working farm at Coleg Cambria Llysfasi, near Ruthin.

Finalists will be immersed in practical activities such as milking cows, handling sheep, using drone technology, seeing agro-forestry in action and tractor driving.

They will also compete in a debate around the competition’s theme ‘Will farmers continue to be the guardians of our land and environment?’

Now in its third year, the competition has had a significant impact in engaging and inspiring young people about farming and food production, and highlighting the many career opportunities available in the sector.

In its first two years, of the 31 students who took part, 10 went on to apply to study at land-based colleges, with all students reporting that it had ‘positively changed their perception of the farming industry’.

LEAF education director Carl Edwards said: “There has never been a more critical time to harness the strength of feelings our young people have for the future of their planet.

"This competition addresses issues they care most about – sustainability, environmental protection, health and nutrition and climate change.

"By providing young people with frontline experience of farming, food production and opportunities for deeper level, critical analysis around a current farming issue, our aim is to raise their awareness of the importance of farming in their everyday lives and its role in addressing the climate and ecosystem emergency.”

New for 2020, regional competitions are also being run by the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society and Embleton Hall Dairy, County Durham which will feed into the national competition.

Iain Clarke, the head of Llysfasi, said: "The importance of sustainable farming has never been so important in mitigating against climate change.

"Young people feel strongly about the future of their planet and farming is under an intense spotlight; this competition provides a fantastic opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience of farming as well as consider how it is also part of the climate crisis solution.”

Speaking from Waitrose & Partners, supporters of this year’s competition, social impact manager Caroline Silke said: “Young people are the consumers and decision makers of tomorrow.

"They are passionate about the future of their planet and farming is key to driving forward positive change.

"Strengthening connections with farming can help promote healthier lifestyles, drive demand for sustainably produced food and nurture an interest in the natural world. We are delighted to support this important initiative.”

The competition is for students aged between 14 and 16.

Secondary schools wishing to apply should enter the competition at www.leafuk.org/education/the-national-food-farming-and-environment-competition

Teachers are asked to answer questions on how winning a place on the weekend competition will have a positive impact for their students and schools, and for their students to give a video response to this year’s competition title ‘Will farmers continue to be the guardians of our land and environment?’

Entries close on March 16.

The winning schools will be announced during the week commencing March 23.

The prize weekend will take place from June 26-28.