Few things in terms of the future of agriculture will be more important than education.
In this case I am not talking about education for producers. That is an area where necessity has pushed farmers to stay current with the latest in farm technology through knowledge.
As important as farmers keeping current may be, it is far less critical to the future of education than is teaching the rest of society about what it means to farm, and what it takes to feed the world.
For most of us these days about as close as any of us get to a farm is looking at the fields as we drive down the highway, many of us not likely recognizing what the crops are.
With so little direct farm contact, education doesn’t come from our grandfathers, or mother, telling us about wheat, and milking a cow, and cutting hay.
Without that direct knowledge transfer that once occurred for almost everyone, in an era when we were all only a generation removed from a farm somewhere in the family, education takes on a different look.
Today programs such as Education in the Classroom are vital to at least give young students the basic foundation to build some understanding of agriculture.
The key to teaching young students is finding a way to engage them.
As a farm boy I recall feeding a calf with a bottle, holding a small week-old piglet, riding on dad’s knee on the tractor. Those are what catch a young person’s attention, and along the way I learned that pigs create waste that you have to shovel, and that chickens must be fed, but if you do that, pork chops and roast chicken will be the result too.
And that brings us to a recent program launched at Yorkton, where staff with the local office of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture created the idea of a pizza farm.
Rachel Kraynick, Regional Farm Business Management Specialist and Naomi Paley, Regional Livestock Specialist came up with the idea of creating a hands-on learning experience for Grade 3 and 4 students based on the idea of what goes into a pizza.
The pair chose pizza because it is something young students can easily relate to. Almost every student will have had a pizza, but that does not mean they recognize the wheat for the flour to create the crust is what is grown on a farm just outside the city.
Or that the milk for the cheese, or pigs for the bacon might well have originated locally too.
“For a lot of our students it was their first time out at a farm,” said Dr. Brass School teacher Lorraine Huang. “The hands-on was awesome for our kids.”
Megan Reminek, also a teacher at Dr. Brass, agreed few students have direct contact with farms, estimating 90 per cent of their students had not previously been on a farm.
Having a chance to go out to a field and experience planting what would one day grow into the components of a pizza is one great way to engage students, and to leave them with some lasting memories which will hopefully help spur them to wonder more about farming and to find to grow their knowledge on their own.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.