Creating awareness of agriculture is the overarching goal of Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM). This month join industry leaders, educators, farmers and fellow retailers from across the country as they take part in activities designed to connect students with where their food comes from.
What started out as Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week in 2012 has grown into an entire month, celebrated annually. Throughout the month of March, Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC) partners with industry leaders to show students of all ages what agriculture means.
The theme for CALM 2020 is “Our Food, Our Story.” Christa Wright, operations manager for Agriculture in the Classroom Canada, believes that now it is even more important to raise awareness and create connections to where our food comes from.
“People truly don’t know where their food comes from,” says Wright, who is also quick to credit this generation of students for their curiosity on the subject. “They want to know where that food comes from. They want to know what a chicken is fed.”
Bridging the Gap
Wright uses a bridge analogy to describe the partnership between AITC and industry, and how important it is for the organization to have supportive industry partners. She says without industry help it would not be possible for AITC to represent the agricultural industry with accurate and current information.
“This is their industry we are representing. We are experts in taking complicated information from the ag industry and delivering it to schools in a way that’s accurate,” said Wright. “It meets the teacher’s needs, it links to curriculum, so they achieve their learning outcomes. We need the industry to be involved because we are telling their story, but we need their support to be able to tell their story.”
Cargill, one of CALM’s long-time supporters, is both a title sponsor and classroom participant. The company’s communications & community relations manager Connie Tamoto says CALM is an opportunity for the industry to get out and provide another layer to the information that’s out there.
“In order for us to have a license to operate in the communities where we are producing, growing and handling food, we need to be out there and talk about what we do,” says Tamoto. “Gone are the days when agribusiness can sit behind the curtain and move things around from there.”
engAGing Young Minds
Another organization partnering with AITC to help students understand agriculture is Farm Credit Canada (FCC). The partnership helps AITC to bring the farm to urban students through engAGe, the newest addition to their thinkAG initiative – a national program that presents agricultural career options to high school students. The first engAGe conference took place in Montreal in Nov. 2019; a second in Vancouver took advantage of the added profile of Canada’s Agriculture Day on Feb. 11, 2020; and the final conference will take place in Toronto on April 7, 2020.
Urban centers were strategically chosen as locations for the conferences because in many cases the students attending are generations removed from farmers and agriculture. At engAGe, the students are given a chance to see what happens on a farm through virtual farm tours, and get to hear from speakers who are actively involved in agriculture.
Bringing Ag into the Classroom
Most CALM activities, however, are on a smaller, local scale. This year, volunteers from across the value chain are gearing up to present their side of agriculture to students from K – 12 in classrooms from coast-to-coast.
Throughout the month of March, students will be participating in events such as breakfasts and lunches featuring locally-produced foods, classroom Q and As, and hands-on planting activities. Wright says nearly 60,000 students took part in CALM activities in 2019 and she hopes the program will surpass that figure in 2020.
Is your retail participating in CALM? Drop us a line and let us know how you’re taking part or tag us in your tweets for a possible feature on caar.org or Twitter.
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