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Connecting Ag-Perspectives Key Topic at OAFE Annual General Meeting

OAFE Shares Vision of Working Together to Increase Awareness of Agri-Food Industry

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The Ontario Agri-Food Education (OAFE) held its 23rd Annual General Meeting on Wednesday in Guelph, which brought industry and community leaders together who share the vision of OAFE – to bring ag-education into the classroom. The AGM highlighted some of its accomplishments, new and on-going partnerships and some of the initiatives that the organization hopes to achieve in the near future.

Lots of energy and passion for bringing agriculture into the classroom filled the mood at this year’s OAFE AGM. The Premier and Agriculture and Food Minister Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Education Liz Sandals sent greetings in the form of letters to the organization, which extended their appreciation for OAFE’s efforts to reach approximately 14,000 students every year. An OAFE organizer made note that it’s great to have the provincial government on board who believes in the organization’s mandate.

One of the ongoing partnerships that were highlighted is OAFE’s collaboration with the Ontario Agriculture College (OAC). Rob Gordon, Dean of the OAC brought greetings and explained how the OAC and the University of Guelph can assist teachers to “help promote critical thinking [in the classroom] and we see OAFE as a key partner,” says Dr. Robert Gordon, Ontario Agriculture College (OAC). Gordon goes on to note that OAFE has assisted the OAC in addressing some of its human capitol challenges.  There is a real demand for agriculture degrees in Ontario - with three jobs available for every one OAC graduate. OAFE has made a real attempt to promote agriculture jobs and careers during its classroom visits.

One of the newer collaborations that OAFE has embarked on is partnering with Health Canada. Dr. Hasan Hutchinson from Health Canada gave a talk on the where health and agri-food connect and the importance of defining food skills in the classroom. OAFE said that it plans on doing a project focusing on the importance of local food.

OAFE showcased its Teacher Ambassador program where Julia Smith, a recent graduate from teachers college and ag-enthusiast shared her experience working with teachers and kids in a classroom setting. OAFE plans on enhancing this offering with a roll-out of an ag champion initiative which will partner 4-H members with Teacher Ambassadors to talk about ag-careers. Colleen Smith, Executive Director of OAFE said that youth act as influencers when it comes to educating other young people their age. “Working in collaboration is everything these days,” said Smith.

Smith goes on to say that food for most people comes from the grocery store not the farm-gate and that OAFE’s message needs to be geared towards accommodating that perspective of where food comes from. “We are not there to force an opinion we are there to offer an ag- perspective,” said Smith.

The feature speaker was Stewart Skinner, a hog farmer from Listowel, Ontario who is a passionate communicator about food and farming. Skinner spoke about his recent trip to Kenya working with dairy farmers about rotational grazing - calling it a life is changing experience. Skinner also spoke about the importance of supporting OAFE – a trusted leader in ag-education to help define agriculture in a positive way, instead of allowing other groups define agriculture. 

(Photo: Steward Skinner)

The general meeting concluded with a call-to-action for all attendees to go out and encourage memberships to help support the initiatives of OAFE and to reach out to teachers who might not know about the classroom-resources available. For more information about how to get involved or to buy a membership can be found by visiting:

The following is a list of the newly elected board of directors who filled vacant seats:

•Kelly Duffy, The Globetrotter Group (Community Director)
•Leanne Cooley, Poultry Industry Council (Corporate Director)
•Bruce Magee, CropLife (Corporate Director)
•Audrie Bouwmeester, Dairy Farmers of Ontario (Corporate Director)

(Photo: OAFE Board of Directors)


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