Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 11:49 UK

Every child 'should visit a farm'

Shepherd shearing a ewe in Loch Lomond
The Soil Association argues children should be given an understanding of farming

Every child in Scotland should have the chance to visit a working farm or croft so they can better understand the food they eat, a campaigner has said.

Hugh Raven, director of Soil Association Scotland, made the call in a meeting with Highland councillors.

He argued such visits would also help encourage more young people to pursue a career in agriculture.

The association promotes environmentally-friendly farming and food production.

Ahead of his meeting, Mr Raven said he hoped Highland Council could use its influence to ensure every child has the opportunity to visit a working farm or croft at least once.

Very few things are more important to a child's welfare than respect for and understanding of food
Hugh Raven
Soil Association Scotland

He said: "It is vital to help our children understand the vital importance of food to so many aspects of their quality of life.

"Very few things are more important to a child's welfare than respect for and understanding of food."

In a message to the council, he added: "In this region more than any other, as the education authority, you can help reverse the trend of the last 50 years - to make once again a career in farming and on the land one to which our young people can aspire."

Attracting new blood into farming has been a long-standing issue for NFU Scotland.

In 2007, its leaders said agriculture in Scotland was becoming an increasingly ageing industry.

A lack of profitability had discouraged young people from staying in or taking up farm work, the organisation claimed.

NFU Scotland said research had shown as many as half of Scotland's farms had no successor in place.

'Go bust'

Meanwhile, a Scottish university professor has been working with a team of economists and ecologists investigating the relationship between crofting and wildlife in the Highlands.

The team previously looked at the effects of upland farming in the Peak District.

Nick Hanley, professor of environmental economics at the University of Stirling, said many Scottish farmers relied on European Union schemes that paid them to carry out projects aimed at encouraging wildlife.

He said: "Many hill farmers would go bust if we didn't have them."

Mr Hanley, who is to deliver a lecture in Inverness next Thursday, added: "The European Union has said that some of these sources of finance will not be guaranteed after 2013.

"So something will have to change. And this change will be important for everyone in the Highlands, from the smallest crofter to the largest landowner."

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