* The job of Karen Watson, education manager at farming operation Barleylands, is to teach visiting schoolchildren  about the sources of food – and remove a few bizarre misconceptions along the way. She talks to TOM KING

Every year, Karen Watson is responsible for introducing thousands of town children to the world of farming and food. 
Karen is education manager at Barleylands, the farming operation which produces food on many sites across Essex. 
As well as being a working farm, Barleylands is also an educational facility, the largest and fastest growing “schoolroom farm” in the UK. Every year, it welcomes more than 11,000 schoolchildren between four and eleven on day trips to its showground near Billericay. 
As Barleylands boss Peter Philpot boss says: “Every child who comes here learns a lot, and who knows, one day some of them may even come into the industry.” 
Karen has a more immediate task for now. Working with one eye on the National Curriculum her job is to teach children all about the sources of food, and remove a few misconceptions along the way. 
She says: “With every school party, if you ask a child where food comes from, there will always be half a dozen who answer, quite seriously, ‘Tesco’. 
“The idea of food growing out of the ground, or coming from animals, is just nowhere on their horizon.” 
Karen also asks the children to name any food item that does not come from nature. She says: “One put his hand up and said ‘Chewits’. He was rather disappointed when I explained how even Chewits involves commodities like sugar and fruit syrup’.” 
Karen, who was born and raised in Ayr, Scotland, and is  married to Essex farmer, David, who works for the Co-Op, is passionate about her job.  She is able to demonstrate every aspect of food production, including the various farm animals and the different products that come from them, the different food crops, and even bee-keeping. 
Children enjoy hands-on activities such as churning butter in Victorian-era barrels, and even grinding flour. 
Karen  says: “You know you are doing something of value, you can even change things for the better.”