Her last day with the organization is Feb. 9, 2023
By Diego Flammini
Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC-C) will have new executive leadership for the future.
Johanne Ross, who helped found the organization, is stepping away.
Deciding to leave the AITC-C didn’t come easy, but the time is right, she said.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time and my career with the organization,” she told Farms.com. “But it’s time for me to step back and reassess where I’m at in my life. I’ve got new grandchildren and some things in my personal life I want to focus on. It’s time to let someone with a lot more energy than me take Agriculture in the Classroom Canada to the next level because the organization isn’t slowing down, but I’m at the age where I do want to slow down a bit.”
Her last day with the organization is Feb. 9, 2023.
Ross served as AITC-C’s founding executive director for seven years. And in 2021 received an induction into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame for her work in the ag sector.
It was during her time as executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba and collaborating with others across the country that the idea for a national organization sprouted.
“There was a group of about seven provincial organizations across Canada that did separate work but had a really strong sharing network,” she said. “It was around 2010 that we started discussing needing a national voice. This would set us up on the national stage to talk about agriculture and also open the door to more funding from the federal government.”
Agriculture in the Classroom Canada officially launched in 2015.
“Overnight I basically went from being part of the board that ran the national organization to being the person that reported to the board that ran the national organization. It was a really cool shift,” she said.
Under Ross’s leadership, AITC-C secured funding from the federal government.
In 2022, for example, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provided $415,000 in support for the organization. The year before, the federal ag ministry provided $1.6 million.
And the number of provincial organizations has increased to 10.
Throughout Ross’s tenure with AITC-C, two themes remained the same.
The organization’s core value of delivering authentic stories about how food is produced in Canada, and ensuring educators have the tools they need to integrate ag into their lessons.
“Agriculture is science, agriculture is math and agriculture is social studies,” Ross said. “What has changed the most is that students and teachers are super interested in understanding where their food comes from and how agriculture is dealing with climate change and the environment.”
In 2022, AITC- reached over 2.5 million teachers and students.
Agriculture is not a mandatory part of education in Canada, and curriculums are set by provincial governments.
Discussions about making ag its own subject have taken place, but AITC-C decided to instead support the lessons already being taught by connecting them to ag.
“We decided not to have the battle all the time about putting agriculture into the curriculum, it became more about building relationships with education departments so they can understand that agriculture is tied into subjects that are already being taught.”
A challenge Ross and AITC-C continue to have to overcome is having others tell agriculture’s story.
“We’re often up against groups that are telling our story for us, and that’s an ongoing challenge,” she said. “They often have a lot more financial backing than we do. We’re just getting to the point in the sector where everyone realizes we need to support programs in schools more consistently. Businesses have regularly viewed the support as a great donation, but we need to see those donations be part of business plans.”
The young students AITC-C helps connect to agriculture will become consumers one day.
The more information they have, the more equipped they’ll be to make informed decisions when it’s their turn to shop for food, Ross added.