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How schools are teaching students about food and land


Students from Loreto Normanhurst at their hydroponics set up

Last year Australian farmers produced enough food to feed the population three times over. On top of keeping kitchens stocked, this represents a huge economic success. It’s forecasted that farmers will create $85 billion worth of produce in 2024-25, and at the last census 239,000 people were employed in agriculture - with more and more people in jobs outside of the traditional role of a farmer.

With these opportunities in mind, many schools are adapting the classroom to give students first hand farming experiences. Whether through using onsite farms, agricultural technology centres or in collaboration with nearby farms, schools are teaching students about topics such as land and water management, sustainability and animal welfare, as well as giving them exposure to the cutting edge technology and range of jobs available in the industry.

Frensham School’s working farm

When Frensham, a girls boarding school in regional NSW was established in 1913 they had an on-site farm to provide milk for the school’s boarding houses. Fast forward over 100 years and the farm has evolved into the 10 hectare ‘Holt Farm’, running mixed breed steers, sheep, a couple of alpacas and a donkey for pest control.


Members of the Frensham Livestock Team

As well as Holt Farm, their Agriculture Classroom houses chicken pens and vegetable gardens where students learn theory and put it into practice. Topics include animal behaviour and welfare with livestock, how to grow fruit and vegetables in the gardens as well as a wider look at where the food they eat and the fibre they wear comes from.

The economic side of farming is also an important focus. Students are taught about the consumer’s changing demand for transparency across sustainability and animal welfare, as well as the increased use of technology in different areas of farming and land management.

Frensham’s Livestock Team trains twice a week for shows including the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Students train the animals to be led into and around the Show arena, groom them to make sure they are looking their best for the judges.

The school has a proud legacy at the Easter Show, winning several titles including the Champion School Carcass competition and the Champion Virtual Taste. ‘It is fantastic that all of the time and effort that our students put into preparing the livestock has paid off and they can be proud of their achievements.’ says Leonie Mutch, Agricultural Coordinator at Frensham.


Frensham students tending to garden beds at the school

Showing students the diversity of the industry is key to inspiring them to follow careers in agriculture, believes Ms Mutch, “It’s an extremely diverse industry to be involved in – it’s not just being a farmer. 70% of jobs are in off-farm locations, often in major cities or abroad. We all have to eat and be clothed, and fresh food and natural fibres are the best.”

Silkwood School is taking learning outside of the classroom

Not having an on-campus farm hasn’t stopped Silkwood School in Queensland offering their students a real life farming experience. The school believes empowering students through a series of hands-on experiences helps them understand more about themselves, their interests and the world around them.


Silkwood students at Raba Urban Farm

The school offers students opportunities to go out into the community and engage with different organisations, whether it be a farm, radio station or vet clinic. By trying their hand at several experiences they hope to give students a greater understanding of their passions and the ability to adapt, collaborate and deal with real-world challenges.

Since last year, one of the experiences the school has been offering is the opportunity to experience working on a farm through a partnership with Raba Urban Farm in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

At the farm topics include sustainable farming practices, creek regeneration and native plant restoration with the aim of instilling a sense of responsibility, leadership, and environmental stewardship in the students.


Silkwood students getting into the garden beds at Raba Urban farm

On any given day students could be caring for chickens, building and maintaining fences and structures like garden beds. The garden beds are used to grow vegetables which are cared for by the students, and are also used as a shared space by the wider community who can use them as a source of food. Both the school and the farm want to inspire students to become stewards of the environment, equipped with practical skills, curiosity and a sense of responsibility

Instilling a deep appreciation for STEM at Loreto Normanhurst

Sydney’s Loreto Normanhurst believes sustainability, from both an economic and environmental perspective is key to the future success of farming. They want students to understand that farms must be profitable as well as environmentally sustainable to be successful and ensure that resources are present for future generations. To help spread this message and foster a deep appreciation for STEM disciplines in their students, they opened their Agricultural Technology Centre, ‘Osborn Orchards' last year.


‘Osborn Orchards’, Loreto Normanhurst's new Agricultural Technologies Centre

The centre is purpose-designed to help students learn about sustainable practices and the natural environment. Facilities include a rainwater tank that captures water for the on-site vegetable beds, a large chicken coop to learn about animal husbandry, and a sugarcane crop that students harvest and use to study sugar extraction and purification. The classroom itself is designed to foster collaborative learning and let students see what is involved across the different stages of food production.

The school immerses students in the sciences, and provides them with deep learning experiences to showcase their abilities and innovations. By offering practical lessons on topics students have been learning about in theory, they hope to motivate students to become the leaders of tomorrow's STEM industries.

Preparing students to push the industry forward

The approach taken by these schools and others show some of the diverse ways that are being taken to inspire the next generation workers in the STEM industries. By providing hands-on experiences, teaching sustainability, and showcasing the range of career opportunities within the industry, these schools are equipping students with the knowledge needed to take on the challenges faced by tomorrow’s farmers.

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