Pupils grow entire Christmas dinner at Slimbridge farm 

Pupils and teachers pulled up parsnips, dug up potatoes and raised their very own flock of turkeys to create a traditional festive feast from scratch.

Wotton House International School in Gloucester, embarked on the unique culinary challenge to teach children how food is grown earlier this year.

Pupils found a space at a local farm to plant all the vegetables and ensure their turkey were well looked after and primed.

Children from different classes aged from seven to 12 years old spent up to a day per week at the farm near Slimbridge during the summer and autumn terms.

There they tended to the turkeys or helped tend to the vegetables before tucking into a toasted marshmallow around the forest school campfire during their farm days.

Gazette Series: Pupils have spent hours at the farm near Slimbridge learning about food production Pupils have spent hours at the farm near Slimbridge learning about food production (Image: SWNS)

And their Christmas dinner was then plated up and served to them just before the end of term last week.

Principal Daniel Sturdy said the aim of the project was to introduce the children to the reality of food production.

He said: “For the children it is a multi-sensory experience, healthy and in the open air. It also gives children time to contemplate how their food is grown, and allow them to direct their own learning.

“From bare earth, mud, seeds and eggs all the way through to the dinner they found on their plate there is a degree of independence that we are encouraging to help children develop.

“They come back from the farm full of mud, with a collection of conkers, seeds, apples and blackberries, and that’s something you can’t do with most lessons.”

However the school didn’t shy away from explaining to pupils how food is produced, and the process of raising animals which are ultimately destined for the dinner table.

The turkeys, which were raised on the farm, were humanely terminated at a professional abattoir.

Gazette Series: Wotton House International School Principal Daniel Sturdy Wotton House International School Principal Daniel Sturdy (Image: SWNS)

Mr Sturdy added: “As a former vegetarian I felt that if you are going to eat meat then it is important to understand where your food comes from.

“I think it’s important to face up to the moral dilemma which everybody has got to face, that meat comes from living things, and isn’t simply a product, like salt, that you find on a shelf or in a fridge.

“They had a genuine free range life, flying around and following the children with an interested curiosity, and it was something which will stay with the children forever.”

Gazette Series: SWNS

Much like real farming, not everything went to plan during the project, with rabbits running off with the school’s carrots and the wheat that had been sown to make bread failing during a wet autumn, however the school plans to make the school-grown dinner a Christmas tradition.

Though one pupil, Hazel, 7, who attends Wotton’s prep school, said: “The farm was a bit soggy.

“But I pulled up lettuce, beetroot, spinach and onions. But the most fun was having hot chocolate.”

When asked about the meal she added: “It was lovely, I got to pull lots of crackers.”

Sophie Sturdy, who took on the role of managing the turkeys added: “If I got home too late the turkey’s would be looking down on me from the trees and gobbling away as if to say. Ha! You’re glass of wine can wait, you need to try and get us in first!”

And after eight months of toil, the Christmas dinner was hailed as one of the best they had – and Mr Sturdy is looking ahead to next Christmas already.

He said: “Absolutely fabulous, one of the best I have ever eaten.

“The rabbits may have eaten the carrots but the swedes were great. Next year we’ll make sure we make our own bread.

“Now we’ve done it once we know what can be done.”

Lancs Gazette Series | Gloucestershire