Members of Lambton County’s agricultural community are trying to bridge the gap between urban and rural and producer and consumer.
Farmers this week fanned out into Sarnia-Lambton classrooms, about a dozen speaking before 27 different school groups.
The purpose was to help explain agriculture and its activities to an audience that’s mostly urban-based and unaware of what goes on in the county’s fields and livestock barns.
It was all part of Agriculture Day, formally observed on Feb. 13 and an occasion to celebrate Canadian farmers and promote a stronger connection between consumers and the people who grow and produce their food.
Among the agricultural ambassadors was Blair Williamson, a beef farmer and director for the Lambton Federation of Agriculture. He said many Canadians give little thought to where their food comes from, and that’s partly because so few of them are involved in its production.
Williamson said not even two per cent of Canadians are primary agricultural producers. And while farm fields and livestock barns are a common experience for those travelling through Sarnia-Lambton, that’s not always the case in the rest of Canada.
Even in Sarnia, Williamson said, there are people who have no connection to a farm or farmer.
To help bridge that gap, the Federation sent local farmers into classrooms this past week, speaking to students about their agricultural operations, and to answer any questions.
Beef farmer Joe Dickenson was among them. On Friday he was at Mooretown Public School, speaking to Joe Turner’s Grade 3 and 4 students. Dickenson spoke about what he does on his farm, including crop and pasture rotation, and raising beef cattle.
He said while a few of the students live on a farm or are familiar with agricultural activities, there are also many who have never been exposed to farming details.
He said when people don’t personally know a farmer, it can be problematic, especially if they are being misinformed by media or other sources. Agricultural practices are better represented if a consumer can speak to a farmer personally.
“The biggest thing is that it gives them a connection to a farmer,” Dickenson said. “This way we can get out there, we can talk to them, we can show them the facts and we can give them a person that they feel comfortable coming to if they do have any questions down the road.”
Dickenson said the response from the Mooretown students on Friday was very good. The children were engaged in the conversation about farming, asking questions and sharing their own stories.
He said it’s all about giving them a real picture of farming and where their food comes from.
And that means telling them the real story of agriculture.
“We want to make sure that we don’t sugarcoat things… I did talk about the cows going for beef,” Dickenson said, noting that during other presentations, he’s had mixed reactions to that detail. “But we have to talk about it, because it is a reality and we want to explain the whole situation.”
While agriculture isn’t a huge part of the curriculum at many schools, Dickenson said his visit could prompt teachers to incorporate more lessons in relation to farming. He has even planned to do a virtual tour of his farm with Turner’s class later in the year.
“I think it’s a really good thing that we do,” he said. “You see that engagement and it shows that there is a lot of interest out there.”
The Sarnia Observer