Farming can plug the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gap, helping inspire children to take up crucial roles and careers through the lens of food production.
That was the key finding of a new NFU report, Inspiring STEM Learning Through Agriculture, which called on the Government to take agriculture seriously as a vehicle to deliver STEM education in light of the lack of STEM graduates and people with the skills needed to create a productive and sustainable future Britain.
A YouGov survey highlighted a skills gap in careers based around STEM subjects, with one fifth of teacher respondents stating that they struggled to teach any science during the week.
NFU president Minette Batters said: "Government has the opportunity to recognise and promote the role that farming can play in teaching vital STEM subjects in an exciting and innovative way that benefits the next generation.
"We ask the Government to make sure agriculture is pushed as a way of doing this. It would make a huge difference for the pupils, the school and wider society.
"By engaging children with agriculture at an early age and showing them that science, technology, engineering and maths play crucial roles in the sector, we can inspire future generations of STEM professionals.
"This will have benefits for other industries and the wider economy, as well as inspiring interest in working in Britain’s all-important food industry."
Joshua Payne, NFU chief education manager, added agriculture was a subject every student can relate to since everyone eats food everyday that is produced on farms.
But he added STEM was not just about science or technology, or engineering or maths.
“It is about all of them together and implementing them in situations that will teach children about life outside the classroom,” he said.
"It is about providing a new way for them to learn important skills, in a way that does not seem like learning.
"It is about challenging children to think about the future and their part in it.
"Using agriculture is a great way of doing this – and the benefits will be felt from field to fork, and beyond."
Reflecting on the success of using agriculture to teach STEM subjects, Claire Hofer, science co-ordinator at Brompton Westbrook Primary School in Gillingham, said: “The NFU Education programme has been great for developing the children’s science capital and helping them to understand that science is not just something that happens in a science lesson but it is everywhere in the world around them.
“This project has helped them to understand and appreciate the science involved in growing their food and caring for their own plants, as well as considering costing and manufacturing. It has been a fantastic real-life project for the whole school to get their teeth into.”