Who better to pitch high school students on careers in agriculture than high school students themselves? That's the idea behind a new program called Gen Ag, short for Generation Agriculture.
"Gen Ag is a project competition and we were tasked with coming up with a marketing idea to get millennials and youth interested in jobs in agriculture," explained Kinkora High student Hannah Larsen.
The program was offered for the first time on P.E.I. this year at four Island high schools: Bluefield, Kinkora, Three Oaks and Westisle. The Island is one of four provinces in Canada offering Gen Ag as part of a national pilot.
'Inspire their peers'
The students are broken into groups of four or five and each comes up with a business name and marketing strategy.
"They become a marketing company with the goal to inspire their peers to consider careers in agriculture," explained Marilyn Balderston, Gen Ag P.E.I. coordinator.
The program is funded by Farm Credit Canada and on P.E.I., it is offered in agriculture-related classes in high school: agriscience in the first term and animal science second semester.
Social media savvy
After the students came up with their marketing plans, they submitted a 500 to 750 word explanation of what they had done. That was judged by three agriculture industry professionals who selected three finalists. Those three teams presented in person for the finals.
"It was very inspiring for us to see what the kids were coming up with," said Balderston.
The finalists included two groups from Bluefield, the Aginators and U-Agriculture and the ultimate winners from Kinkora High — the Barn Babes.
"We wanted to reach them, our target audience, on what they know, so we went through social media," said Larsen.
"We used 'did you know' facts about different websites and where you can go to school, and interviews," said Larsen.
Their interviews ranged from P.E.I. Agriculture Minister Alan MacIsaac, to goat farmers, organic farmers to a farm safety coordinator, to showcase a variety of careers.
The Barn Babes said both they and their classmates were amazed at the range of careers.
"They really got a lot out of the interviews that we did with people who work in agriculture," said Bronwyn Roberts.
"I didn't know that was a career that someone was doing on P.E.I. or I didn't know that someone had a farm with these kinds of animals."
The interviews also showed the Kinkora students what it takes to have a career in the field.
"The hard work of Islanders we've interviewed to get where they are today," said Larsen. "I know it's all kind of in the back of our heads that maybe agriculture is a career for us."
'We never knew'
The Barn Babes would recommend Gen Ag to other schools.
"I think it's a really interesting project," said student Angela Arsenault.
"We don't often delve deep into a singular career sector," said Roberts.
"I think it was interesting for us to look totally at agriculture and see that there's jobs in accounting, and marketing and jobs on the farm, jobs that take you all over the world, things like that that we never knew."
The Kinkora students won a $500 cash prize that they are donating to the agri-science class.
"So hopefully we can go on more field trips and raise more awareness of the careers that are out there."
Part of the curriculum
The organizers of Gen Ag did student surveys before and after the program to measure whether the awareness of careers in agriculture had grown.
The hope is to eventually expand Gen Ag to schools across P.E.I. and across the country.
"It is our hope that it can be a natural part of the curriculum that's offered," said Balderston.
"I think it is definitely something that other schools should be looking into because it does teach you a lot about what's out there and we need to be knowing as Grade 12 students what's out there for us," added student Kristie Drummond.
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