Consumers need to know where their food comes from. Why don’t we have more agriculture in the classroom?
Those are recurring conversation themes and questions AgScape executive director Colleen Smith encounters every day. They’re challenges the Ontario agriculture industry has been grappling with since the Ag In The Classroom program was launched 25 years ago.
In 2016, Ag In The Classroom was rebranded as AgScape to help change the focus of agriculture education in Ontario classrooms. In this interview, Smith explains that it’s challenging to interest teachers and children, who are generations removed from the farm, in agriculture. Especially when supermarkets are full of food that comes at an affordable price for most Canadians.
Smith explains that AgScape is still committed to helping teachers and students understand agriculture and food, but a significant focus has been added to the career potential the industry provides. “We need to inform them about where their food comes from, but in a way that attracts them to think about their future in the sector, not necessarily where they are going to have supper,” says Smith.
Earlier this month, RealAgriculture talked with Rene Van Acker, Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at University of Guelph. Van Acker discussed the tremendous opportunities for students in the agri-food sector and the need to attract more students, especially those with urban backgrounds.
Smith notes that the opportunities Van Acker speaks of open the door to a much broader conversation with students and educators.
“If we are going to dispel myths in the sector, if we are going to be able to inspire agri-food careers, if we’re going to be able to make an impact, we need to focus on careers,” says Smith.