Who needs Luke Skywalker to fight the Death Star when you have farmers as warriors?

If you’re among the many – including all the finalists in this year’s Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition – who believe a better understanding of modern farming should begin early and formally in schools, take heart.

In early December, just prior to the Grow Canada meetings in Calgary, final steps will be taken to establish a national Agriculture in the Classroom organization.

It’s being driven by current staff of provincial Agriculture in the Classroom programs, who believe now’s the time for a nationwide body to get in gear.

To me, this is a breakthrough.

This national effort has grassroots written all over it, which is exactly where such an initiative should start…much in the same way education about agriculture should start early and involve the people who know it best, people who work to keep bias out of the classroom and provide young people with farming facts.

The lack of awareness about agriculture is a national problem, and not just for farmers. Agri-food is one of our biggest industries, and the understanding of it is abysmal (in Ontario, 93 per cent of consumers say they no little or nothing about farming). Although education is a provincial matter, farming, eating and learning is not. It’s time for a national Agriculture in the Classroom program.

This week I saw education on a different level, when Farm and Food Care’s Heather Hargrave, a University of Guelph Aggie who now runs awareness programs for the organization, appealed to young people to speak up on behalf of their profession.

She told 30 University of Guelph students gathered for the 2013-14 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (CanACT) that huge, well-organized, professional activist groups in the US who oppose modern farming are spreading their influence and money in Canada.

These activists aren’t just taking to the streets – they’re meeting with politicians and other decision makers to try to influence public policy.

“In Star Wars talk, it’s like fighting a Death Star… armed with only a handful of small Jedi warriors, and no Luke Skywalker,” she said.

But it’s not a doomsday scenario if farmers get in gear and stand up to the rhetoric, which is what she urged the partisan CanACT crowd to do. Use cheap and effective social media to your advantage, she said. Farming doesn’t need rock stars and movie stars to support it. It already has the best ambassadors: farmers.

However, as farming intensifies and hungry people get hungrier, farmers can’t lose sight of their role in food production, either. They need the Heather Hargraves of teh world, and CanACT members, to spread the word.

And they need a national Agriculture in the Classroom organization to help guide teachers’ and students’ exposure in schools to farming, where it counts the most.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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5 Comments

RobertWager

Excellent idea. Our youth who DO understand agriculture are the best to tell the 93% how agriculture actually works.

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Connie Kuramoto

Is Agriculture working? Seems to me there is ongoing degradation of soils, decreasing microbial action in the soil, increasing amounts of pesticide residues as well as not very impressive crop yields after the first few gmo years. Many organic farmers are getting higher yields than gmo farmers these days. Organic growing is a science that is on the rise. I don’t think YOU understand how Agriculture works Robert. It works by nourishing the soil food web, which gmo and pesticide technology do not do.

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Shaun Haney

Actually Connie I think it is you that has things mixed up. Modern agriculture practices take care of the soil. For example, No-till practices significantly reduce soil erosion by the wind.

Sandi Brock

So happy to hear of the Agriculture in the Classroom. I have been hoping that this would get in the curriculum. We are too many generations removed from agriculture… This is a step in a positive direction. Also will help cultivate a new generation back to the farm, or in the ag industry where, before, they may have not been involved.

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A. Parnetta

As a teacher of home economics and knowing that children in Canada let along Saskatchewan have a large disconnect with the food the eat and where that food comes from. Our children will be future consumers and they have little understanding of the source of many items besides food and the huge impact their purchasing decisions have on the agriculture sector. I am a huge supporter of the creation of a National Ag in the Classroom office to support our provincial offices. There needs to be a national push to incorporate more agriculture resources in senior classes such as science, food studies and social studies. The great part is so much of the work has been done in the United States and we as Canada need to look at the work and get our asses in gear and make things happen here other wise we are bound to create agriculturally illiterate individuals. (Like the individual who commented in a prior post…really…you just got sucked in by the propaganda. Take time to visit a Canadian farm and talk to a real farmer and get educated please.)

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