By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Friend a Farmer program teaches student’s first-hand where their food comes from. Three schools from across Ontario participated in the pilot program that was delivered by Farmers Feed Cities and Farm and Food Care Ontario. Local farmers were partnered up with classrooms located in Windsor, Kitchener, and Oshawa where they shared their insights on farming. Through a combination of classroom visits, email exchanges, photographs, and a trip to the farm - the partnership provided an intimate connection for students to learn from a farmer.
The pilot project was first conjured up back in 2012 when Bruce Vincent who was the keynote speaker at the Ontario Farm Animal Council and AGCare annual meeting shared his success with a program that he runs in Montana called “Provider Pals” that helps connect children in the classrooms with primary producers including farmers. The Ontario Farm Animal Council and AGCare board of directors formally known as Farm and Food Care Ontario wanted to translate that success into a similar program for the agriculture industry here in Ontario.
“After hearing from Bruce we all knew that we had to replicate this program in Ontario” says Jenny Van Rooy, Campaign Coordinator.
The program was successful in increasing the awareness of agriculture an important educational element, since less than two percent of Canadians are directly involved in farming. The program helped to change some of the misconceptions that are out there about the agriculture industry.
“I think the biggest benefit of the program is the connection with a real farmer a relationship that they will remember for years to come” says Van Rooy.
The partnering organizations missions are to provide credible information on food and farming and bring awareness to the agricultural cause. The two organizations were oversaw the program from start to finish.
“There was so many ‘I love my job’ moments seeing the program to completion” says Heather Hargrave, spokesperson for Farm and Food Care Ontario.
The program has commenced and the organizers are collecting surveys from the participating schools to assess where they can improve for next year. If you are a farmer or teacher that is interested in participating in the program please contact Farm and Food Care Ontario or Farmers Feed Cities. The participating farmers received a small honorarium for their time and any industry sponsors that would be interested in securing this program in the future are welcomed.