Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Farmers will plant seeds of knowledge with youth

  • Print

If you want to rile a farmer to the point of sputtering, just start talking about how bread comes from the grocery store and chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

With four out of five Canadians now living in cities and with farmers making up less than two per cent of the general population, you could argue the urban-rural divide in this country is every bit as wide as the infamous rivalries between East and West.

Farmers are particularly sensitive about the disconnect between food producers and the rest of us.

Increasingly, the regulations and polities that dictate their operating environment are swayed by folks who have little connection with what farmers actually do, but who often have strong opinions about how they should be doing it.

So what better way to reach out to Canadians than through the kids in school?

February is I Love to Read Month in Canada, but the Agriculture in the Classroom organization is hoping to put a different spin on the literacy focus this coming week.

Farmers will be in 20 elementary schools across the province Feb. 26 to March 3 reading to about 40 classrooms as part of the first Canadian Agricultural Literacy Week.

The effort, which is supported by Farm Credit Canada, will connect farmers with kids who have little opportunity nowadays to experience agriculture. Each child who participates goes home with a bookmark made with "plantable paper," containing seeds.

"Obviously, what we are trying to do is create goodwill and understanding of our industry," says Johanne Ross, executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba.

"We have to engage young people in this industry so they understand agriculture is important to our world."

The tie-in with I Love to Read Month emerged from the AITC's national conference last year and is a natural fit with ongoing efforts to get conversations about agriculture integrated into the school curriculums. "It is about science, it is about social studies, it is about math, we are everything," she says.

And it's not just about farming. Piquing children's interest in food and agriculture at an early age might spark an interest later on in pursuing a related career. "We need really good, strong people coming into our industry."

But when it came time to find material for farmers to read with their students, the project hit a snag. It turns out agriculture and farming have fallen so far off the cultural radar in Canada, there isn't much written from a Canadian industry's perspective for the program to deliver.

Ross said she was stunned by the lack of locally produced material, a problem she hopes will be rectified in the not-too-distant future.

"We had hoped to have a great book that could be used across Canada," she said. "Unfortunately, that is just not out there."

One of the books to be used in Manitoba classrooms next week is from the United States, which is fine, except agriculture practices there aren't always the same.

"Going forward, we would love to fund a project and have some books written -- so if there are writers out there who are interested... " she said.

Of course the project needs a sponsor, too. Ross estimates it would cost upwards of $250,000 to get such a book published.

It's just one of many efforts Agriculture in the Classroom co-ordinates in conjunction with industry partners, ranging from Made-in-Manitoba breakfasts to special events for youth at industry events to farm tours for teachers. It says something about peoples' passion for their business that they regularly volunteer their time to talk about what they do and why they do it.

The organization knows from the demand for its services it is having an impact. But Ross said success of the venture is hard to measure. "I've been doing this for 12 years, and we've come a long way, but we have a long way to go," she said.

"There are so many people we need to reach. We have to be out there telling real stories, the good stories, because there are a lot of inaccuracies and misconceptions out there about our industry."

Granted, there is room for debate and no shortage of controversy over modern agriculture and production practices. Although some of the best-selling books that caused the industry to bristle in recent years have been written by people from outside the industry, they've raised some important questions that deserve a broader discussion.

That's fair enough. But in order to have those conversations as a society, there needs to be at least a basic understanding of what it is we're talking about.

 

Laura Rance is editor of the Manitoba Co-operator. She can be reached at 792-4382 or by email: laura@fbcpublishing.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 25, 2012 B8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Susan and Gary Harrisonwalk their dog Emma on a peaceful foggy morning in Assiniboine Park – Standup photo– November 27, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you miss Grandma Elm?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google