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Time to Grow new Farmers

By BYCOOP admin - Posted on 23 January 2012

It all starts with education.

Here are my views on the Delta Ag plan and an opportunity to succeed.....

From The Delta Optimist


"As Bill Cosby noted years ago, kids say the darnedest things. I was having breakfast with a friend the other day who was recounting the story of a local teacher who was playing name that vegetable with her elementary school class last spring.

Some vegetables were identified without a hitch and others, not so much. For instance, none of the children were able to identify a beet. When the teacher held a head of lettuce in the air for all to see, one youngster was quick to call the item  “salad”. Close, but no cigar.

Whose job is it to teach kids about horticulture and farming anyway? I don’t know about you, but I went through the K-12 curriculum with the odd visit to the pumpkin patch and that was about it.

In grade 10 or so, when it is time to consider what courses to take, do councillors suggest careers as farmers to senior students? I don’t think they do, and even if they did, what series of course offerings would prepare an interested student to purse post secondary education for a career in farming?

These are important questions because as we know, the average age of farmers is increasing and for the most part generational farming families is an old idea.

Many farmers have to take on additional employment to supplement revenues and it would seem that there are not many prepared to take the challenge to jump in to farming as a new entrant.

The Delta Agriculture Plan is essentially complete. The 52 page document notes some consistent themes around farming and education and rightly recognizes that something has to be done to ensure that “Farming is attractive and accessible, providing a successful alternative career for younger people and new entrants.”

Just how do we do that? This lofty goal is not one that any one government agency or school district can handle on its own.

If Delta is serious about being.... “a place where the business of farming can prosper while contributing vitally to the community‘s ecological attributes and social, cultural, and economic well-being “, then the school district, Delta, the BC Government and other agencies need to sincerely and diligently put the plan in to action.

For its part, the Delta school district has been interested in developing an “Agriculture Academy”. Chairman Dale Saip comes from a farming family and recognizes that children need more exposure to horticulture and farming to ensure that there is a steady supply of bodies and ideas to work the land. Vice chair of the Agriculture Committee and local farmer and councillor Ian Paton seems to agree.

Delta and the school district are on the same page here which is good. The challenges of farming are immense and pressures around land use, farming infrastructure and world food markets should compel us to innovate and educate when it comes to farming.

We can start now at the k-12 level and we can make food and farming front and center with our kids at home too. 

Maybe plant some beets with your kids in your backyard this year? We might not be able to get the kids to eat them but at least they will know what they are."

Mike Schneider


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