The Big Picture: Friend a farmer

NEW PROGRAM TO BRING STUDENTS CLOSER TO THE FARM

there are plenty of misconceptions and myths about farming among the non-farmers in our province and farmers are often heard talking of the need to bring awareness of the industry to the greater population.

Farmers Feed Cities, the Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC) and AGCare are of the opinion that this awareness should start young. The three organizations are preparing to launch a program in the fall called Friend a Farmer.

“The program will connect local farmers with local schools,” explains Jenny
Van Rooy, Farmers Feed Cities Campaign Coordinator. “Classrooms will be connected with a farmer who they can communicate with and learn from throughout the school year.”

Targeting six schools across Ontario, the pilot program is starting small and experimenting with several different grades. Farmers involved in the program will participate in a training session and will be provided with resources and support throughout the year. Teachers will be connected with the farmer and encouraged to connect their class through a variety of means including old-fashioned snail mail and new-aged internet tools like Skype.

“We plan to facilitate the initial connection but eventually we want the teacher and farmer to find a system that works for them,” explains Van Rooy. “The program is flexible and can be tailored to meet the needs of both the classroom and the farmer.”

In the spring, Van Rooy is hopeful to see farmers coming into the schools to meet their “pen-pals” or classes taking field trips to the farm. “They will be communicating with each other throughout the year and the program will end with a face-to-face meeting either at the school or on the farm.”

By participating in the program, students will be given an opportunity to learn about crop production, farm animal care and the business of managing a farm direct from the best source possible – a real farmer.

For farmers, a small time-commitment can result in a rewarding opportunity to educate our future leaders about the importance of agriculture.

Getting non-farmers taking about farming is in the mandate for both Farmers Feed Cities, OFAC and AGCare and this program is just the start. “This is just a trial year but we hope to extend the program to more schools in future years,” says Van Rooy.

Several teachers and farmers have already shown interest in participating in the program but Farmers Feed Cities, OFAC and AGCare are looking for more. If you’re a farmer interested in “friending” a classroom, contact Jenny Van Rooy at (519) 767-4120 or Jenny@FarmersFeedCities.com. •