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New program brings Ont. students to farms

New program brings Ont. students to farms

Norwell District Secondary School introduced its LEAF program

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

An Ontario high school is giving its students a unique way to interact with members of the ag community.

Norwell District Secondary School (NDSS) recently kicked off its Local Environmental Agriculture and Food (LEAF) program. Grade 11 and 12 students enrolled in the program engage with local farmers and agribusiness owners.

Students who complete the program can earn two credits toward the 30 required for graduation.

The first stop for students was R-Lil Golden Treats Maple Sweets in Minto, Ont. on Oct. 10. The 14-acre operation produces about 1,700 litres of maple syrup annually.

“We had to find a way to engage kids and get them into different locations outside of school,” Paul Richard, principal of NDSS, told the Minto Express Friday. “This (farm) is less than five minutes away from our school. Look where you are, this is your classroom, and that’s what LEAF is all about. It’s a chance to get out and learn from our community.”

The LEAF program is designed to help students understand that farming stretches beyond the traditional avenues of grain, beef or dairy production.

Maple syrup production is farming, “but people don’t really think of it as farming,” Paul Frayne, a course instructor, told the Minto Express. “What we want to think about in this program is the diversity that exists in agriculture. It’s something that we all need to be aware of. Local food production is so important.”

Growers are happy this kind of program exists.

Ontarians are becoming further removed from farming, so any introduction to the industry is beneficial, said Doug Duffin, a cash crop, beef and poultry producer from Middlesex County.

“I think it’s a great program to have,” he told Farms.com. “A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from, so giving students an opportunity to learn from a farmer and ask them questions is great. Even if they don’t get into farming or pursue a career in the industry, the students will become consumers.

“This program will help them become informed consumers, which we need more of.”

The students will visit Wallenstein Feed & Supply in Wallenstein, Ont. in January.

Agribusinesses relish the chance to engage with the next generation of farmers, employees and consumers, said Tara Reynolds, communications and sales support specialist at Wallenstein Feed & Supply.

“The LEAF program sounds like an excellent program and we’re happy to be a part of it,” she told Farms.com. “We have over 200 employees that range from trucking to maintenance, so it will be great for the students to come visit with us. They’ll get a sense for what we do and how many job opportunities there are in the industry.”

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