The educational Pizza Farm tours have spread throughout the province, helping kids to understand not only just where food comes from, but also the work that goes into bringing it to the table.
Now in its seventh year, the tour, which originated in Yorkton, has grown with the support of numerous sponsors within the agricultural community to see what goes into their favourite foods.
The concept is simple, and effective. Take a food that kids love, such as pizza; trace the ingredients from their source to the plate. Pizza is especially ideal given every major food group is represented -- especially vegetables.
“It’s our seventh year,” said Rachel Kraynick, Agriculture Program Specialist of the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We work with a lot of partners in agriculture within the community to show Grade 3 and 4 students everything they need to know about agriculture in different areas.
“We’ve got animals, we’ve got grains, we’ve got technology, equipment, safety -- all of that important stuff.”
“The kids come out in the springtime in the Grade threes, about where their food comes from and all the different sectors of the industry,” said Cassidy Wagner, Marketing Advisor of Pattison Agriculture.
“Then, they come back full time as Grade 4 students to see the full harvest of all the crops and all the animals out here.
“It takes a lot of volunteers from the industry to make this project happen. We’ve had commitment from a lot of partners for the last seven years to make it a go. The Ministry and Pattison Ag have been organizing it. We’ve had contributions from Yorkton New Holland, and Farm Credit Canada.
“Bayer Crop Science, donated the land for us to seed the pizza farm at, and they not only seed the plots, they also look after them. So, throughout the summer, Bayer’s been a big partner in this project. We have new players come onboard, including Royal Bank.”
“Each plot of the pizza grows a different crop,” explains Kraynick.
“We make the connection on how a crop is connected to pizza. So, for example, if we’re a slice of wheat, we talk about how wheat is ground up to make flour that goes into the dough of the pizza. Actually, in the springtime, Domino’s Pizza donates pizza for all the students that come out.
“This year, we have 360 students from ten different schools; from the Good Spirit School Division and Christ the Catholic School Divisions. I think it’s one of our biggest food farms this year, and it continues to grow.
“We actually started off doing pizza farm as a one day event in the spring and one day in the fall, but its become so popular that we’ve had to move it to two days in the spring and two days in the fall.
“It’s a lot of organizing, but thankfully today the weather’s cooperating.”
“It’s really good,” says Wagner, but she adds:
“We’re actually here rain or shine. It doesn’t matter -- we try to make sure that we’re accomodating to all the kids that make plans and volunteers that take time out of their schedule. We’re just happy to have people so excited about the program.”
“I think another thing to mention, too, is a lot of these students have never set foot on a farm,” says Kraynick.
“I think that’s where I feel like we’re making the biggest difference is when you get kids from the city coming and seeing how their food grows, where it comes from -- talking to a farmer! A producer. Asking questions. I think that’s something that they’ll never forget and always remember.
“It really makes them look at their plate at night at the supper table. Look at their plate a little differently and think about all the things it takes -- what goes in to making the food that they eat at the supper table.”
“Another thing too, that the hope is, is that we get to address some of the hot button issues in agriculture,” adds Wagner.
“In the media, where you hear a lot of things like plant based protein, you hear things like hormones and antibiotics and beef production. We want to educate consumers and students about these issues and understand that our food producers work really hard to grow healthy, nutritious and safe food for the world. So I think that’s a really important thing to stress.”
The subject of pizza as the central dish of choice had an interesting origin.
“It was myself and the livestock specialist, where eight years ago we attended a youth conference,” recalled Kraynick.
“At this conference in Regina, they were talking about how young people were so disconnected from agriculture, and [how] they don’t understand where their food comes from. If you ask them, ‘Where does the milk in your fridge come from?’ they all say, ‘The grocery store.’ So, at this conference they were talking about this need to educate youth. So on the way back from this conference, Naomi Paley and I were talking about what can we do in Yorkton to make a difference and educate youth because we had connections with classrooms to do agriculture presentations with a ton of industry partners that would be willing to help.
“We thought, what better way to learn than hands on. Learn to do by doing. If we can get some land, seed some plots, let’s see if we can make this happen. It was kind of our idea eight years ago, and here we are seven years later; seventh pizza farm [with] the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Yorkton was actually the very first food farm in the province, but this idea took off, and actually there’s eleven food farms throughout the province, now.
"Agriculture in the Classroom (a program) has developed a manual, so if anyone wants to start a food farm at their own farm, Agriculture in the Classroom would send them a free manual with speaking notes and scripts for each of the stations. So if they had enough volunteers to help them out, they could definitely access that resource and do a food farm right off their own farm. I think that’s super cool, too.”
For those interested the topic of food production, on October 8, there will be a panel discussion at Parkland College for students about food procurement and wellness. A livestock and environment specialist, the manager of Save On Foods and a registered dietitian will be on staff.