Ag for Life helps youth become agriculture’s ambassadors
In today’s age of information, advocacy supporting the agriculture industry has never been so necessary. Getting reliable information out to the public through masses of inaccurate messaging is not an easy task. But then, our industry is all about finding solutions, not taking the easy road.
Since 2011, Ag for Life has been raising awareness around agriculture’s vital place within Alberta’s culture and economy. Their agricultural education and safety programs have been highly effective avenues for setting the record straight by connecting with youth of all ages and backgrounds.
Kayleigh Albrecht, sixth grade teacher at Acme School, sees the advantages to teaching the facts about agriculture in her classroom every day.
“Students gain confidence to become advocates for the ag industry,” she says. “Ag education provides them with tools, knowledge, skills and confidence to positively promote and discuss the industry with others.”
Here are just three of many ways Ag for Life is connecting with kids:
Ag for Life’s Agriculture Education Symposium
Featuring a keynote speaker and numerous breakout sessions connecting agriculture to the curriculum, the Education Symposiums are held each spring and fall. Albrecht says both the teacher and student days she attended were transformative for all.
“I took away a lot of new knowledge and multiple hands-on, take-home and ready-to-use activities I can use in my classroom,” she says. “When we took students, I was blown away by how engaged they were with the activities.”
For David Pinzon, crop protection and biotechnology specialist at Corteva Agriscience, speaking at the symposium is an opportunity to help teachers eager to learn how to apply agriculture to their curriculum. He describes the event as an open forum where teachers are invited to ask questions and have meaningful conversations.
“People have commented back that they are happy the industry is really opening up,” he says. “We haven’t always been so good at communicating around the various technologies we use in our industry. When people recognize the good work we’re doing, and they can ask any questions and have them answered, it’s meaningful.”
AG for Life’s Rural Safety Unit
With seven interactive stations of digital, tactile and mechanical interactive displays, kids explore hazard identification, large animals and equipment, utilities, risk assessment, chemicals and protective equipment, all in one mobile trailer.
Retired farmer and Ag for Life volunteer Joanne Kaliel says with so many spokes to the farm safety wheel, she’s amazed at how much learning and conversation is coming out of the Safety Unit.
“The kids engage at all age levels,” she says. “The parents and grandparents are interested too. They love showing the children everything, even if they are already familiar with farming.”
The trailer was especially successful when combined with the Education Symposium at a Morinville Highschool event last fall. “The kids were able to go through everything all at once and that was really cool,” Kaliel says. “The high school students loved it and were so receptive to all of it.”
Ag for Life’s Ag 101: Food and Farming
Ag 101 sets the stage for junior and senior high school students to explore where their food comes from and what goes into its production. They can then understand how these factors affect human health, the environment and farm animal welfare through the hands-on program.
Pinzon volunteers and says the stations students move through are designed to enlighten and ignite curiousity using real life examples. The Corteva station offers activities for students including lessons around scientific practices like cross pollination, weed control and canola oil saturation. Students then come up with solutions on their own, learning to discern fact from fiction using science.
“We give some flavour to students about what agriculture is about and why innovation is necessary. We’re helping kids and teachers appreciate the role farmers play in our lives and how much goes behind the scenes to produce the food we eat,” Pinzon says. “These students become the ambassadors of agriculture. They will start conversations at the table with their families. People listen to kids.”