A twist on brain food: educate kids, then let them eat

Fast food could be coming to a Saskatchewan farm near you.

“The ministry has partnered with industry to put together pizza farms and burger and fries farms where kids come in the spring to plant the crops and in the fall they harvest the crops,” said Shelley Jones, manager of Saskatchewan Agriculture’s Agriculture Awareness Initiative Program.

“They learn about the foods that make up their dinner plate like all the ingredients that go into a pizza or a burger, french fries or the bun. It’s a big partnership effort with these food farms to ensure that all the sectors are represented and everybody is telling their story.”

The food farm is one of 40 projects that the ag awareness program is supporting. This particular one is in partnership with Agriculture in the Classroom.

A youth and education strategy is one of the key ways that have been identified for increasing agriculture awareness. Saskatchewan Agriculture primarily targets 15 to 25 year olds with a secondary focus on industry and adults younger than 35.

The ag awareness program, which is said to be the only one in Canada, is intended to improve the public perception of agriculture in the province.

Now in its third year, it funds industry projects that furthers public understanding, creates awareness of agriculture’s role in the economy and promotes the diversity of agricultural careers.

Up to $350,000 is allocated annually, and applicants will be eligible for funding of $25,000 to $50,000 per project per year.

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“Basically what we do is fund 50 percent of eligible costs for projects and materials that improve public perception of agriculture,” Jones said.

Adopt a Rancher in southwestern Saskatchewan is another project.

“It’s an educational program where students adopt a rancher and learn more about rangeland management and animal welfare.”

Other projects include the development of exhibits for public events through the Saskatchewan Association of Ag Societies, funding upgrades to Ag-grow-land at the Saskatchewan Science Centre and support for Agriculture in the Classroom projects to develop new resources for curriculum-linked programs.

However, more work is needed to provide experiences for children that teach them where their food comes from.

She said industry could become much more involved, particularly with Agriculture in the Classroom.

“They need money to operate. They can’t keep up with the demand for their resources and programming,” she said.

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“That’s really sad that we’re not able to provide resources to all the teachers who are requesting them.”

Jones said transportation is a big impediment for students to attend events such as Canadian Western Agribition in Regina and the Crop Production Show in Saskatoon.

“Industry support to help schools cover transportation costs would help more of these kids get to some of these learning experiences,” she said.

“What we really need is help to get kids to these events and have these experiences.”

More work also needs to be done with educators to increase awareness of the Agriculture in the Classroom program.

“Consumers need to know that Farm and Food Care Saskatchewan exists, that there are people our there connecting consumers with food and farming,” she said.

“We want to tell our story. We want to have those conversations. Let’s just make the connection and there are organizations out there doing that.”

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