Bringing up Baby, by Baby

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We have Moved too Far from the Land

Our modern cities are our biggest enemy.

All concrete with little or no place for nature. People have lost touch with the land, they have lost respect for the land; and it is the land that is our friend, not concrete and asphalt.

We have lost the poo!

Cow poo – fresh ‘feel good stuff’

Mycobacterium vaccae

Cow poo

Yes, cow poo. Mycobacterium vaccae was first discovered or recoginised in cow poo hence it’s name vaccae.

It’s a bacteria, it’s a mind altering bacteria. It’s a ‘feel good’ substance. If you live in a concrete jungle and feel stressed, there’s a good chance that you are missing out on the cow poo smell.

Have you ever wondered why you feel good in the country? Why the agricultural aromas (cow poo) smell wonderful? When in all reality they should smell repulsive.

It’s because of Mycobacterium vaccae it’s everywhere in nature and is an antidepressant with the ability to enhance intelligence. Now I understand why so many bankers in their ivory towers are just plain stupid.

Mycobacterium vaccae is present in all natural soil, in compost and we breathe it in the air. The bacteria stimulates neuron growth and reduces anxiety, which increases the production of serotonin (a type of neuro-transmitter) and in turn increases the ability to learn.

Now you can see why gardeners are happy to garden, hikers are happy to hike, while the rest of the world live in their concrete jungles stressed and anxious.

That is the opening gambit from a Make you Fink post on Eco-Crap last year, hop across and read the rest.

School farms and eating animals you have cared for

Pupils at Reddish Vale Community College arrive almost two hours early to help muck out the animals on their school farm

Increasing numbers of UK schools are starting up their own farms. The 100th opened last month, with at least 100 more planned, according to the School Farms Network. At Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport, which has had a farm since 1986, pupils face the dilemmas of caring for animals raised for their meat.

Jack, Molly and Jordan, all 12, are shovelling pig dung into a pile and loving it.

Luke, 11, is making sure that Arthur the pig does not escape while they have the gate open “and smash up the rabbit hutches”.

The others are busy at work with brooms so that the poo and dirty straw are ready to be transferred to the muck heap where they will rot down and be used to make compost for the school farm’s gardens.

They are here every school day morning at 7.15 sharp.

Luke, who once struggled to wake up, is now keen to get to school nearly two hours before lessons start.

Rising early

“I like the animals. They’re worth getting up for.”

He also says his behaviour is better: “Instead of fighting I just talk about it. I don’t tend to use my fists any more.”

Jack agrees the farm has had a positive effect: “People say they have seen a big change for the better in me.”

“It calms me down so I am ready to learn. I like the animals. I like cleaning them out”.

Arthur the large white pig biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to escape from his pen.

There are 1,300 pupils aged from 11 to 16 at Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport, Greater Manchester. Jed Murphy is one of the science teachers.

He says that although the farm has a role as a haven for pupils who need extra support it also has educational relevance across the curriculum from art and technology to maths and science.

The farm is a resource for a range of qualifications offered by the school, from a GCSE in “environmental and land-based science”, otherwise known as agriculture, to a certificate in animal care.

Mr Murphy is emphatic that this is a working farm and not a petting zoo.

Farm ethics

It allows the school to focus on issues crucial to the modern food industry, such as where food comes from, animal welfare, poor diet and waste.

Pupils help grow vegetables, fruit and flowers, which they sell through the farm shop. They also help raise livestock that is ultimately sold for slaughter.

Soon a decision must be made about whether a pair of sows that have failed to produce piglets should go for slaughter. Last year the school sold sausages made from its own pigs.

“The future of the pigs is a tough question. We will make the decision but will discuss the options with pupils. I would like them to understand how traditional farming works. The animals are fed and looked after well but ultimately they are sold for slaughter. We have to be strong here and say what this is really about,” says Mr Murphy.

Josh, who wants to be a vet, thinks their fate is tough, disapprovingly describing it as “tight”, but he still loves a bacon butty for breakfast.

“When they are having a good life it’s tight for them to go and get slaughtered, but I think bacon is tasty.”

“I find it really upsetting – but it’s something I have learned to live with. I am not a vegetarian,” says 14-year-old Shannon.

Helping rear animals that are sold for meat has encouraged pupils to think more about where their food comes from.

Her friend Emily shares the sentiment but has decided to limit what she eats: “I eat some meat. I will eat chicken.”

Pupils and staff say the key thing with meat that they have reared is that they know where it comes from, particularly after the recent horsemeat scandal.

In the summer, pupils are encouraged to pick and eat vegetables from the school gardens. Eating peas straight out of their pods is a new experience for children more used to ready-meals.

The adults notice how much longer the school’s lettuces stay fresh compared with their plastic-packed supermarket equivalents.

Mr Murphy says he is still appalled at how little some of his students know about agriculture.

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Opinion:

Getting kids out of the cities and back to the country is our future salvation. Although in the case of these schools, it is bringing the country into the cities.

The benefits are enormous, educational, behavioural and just generally understanding life.

Kids need to get dirty, kids need to know where their food comes from and how, kids need cow poo!