Nfld. & Labrador

This student hopes to grow agriculture in classrooms across N.L.

"I think that Newfoundland has huge, unmapped potential for agriculture, and one of the steps we can take toward becoming a more self-sufficient province is educating our youth," Abigail Penney says.

Young children 'enthusiastic to learn,' says agriculture student

Abigail Penney studies Agriculture at Dalhousie University, and hopes to pitch the idea of bringing agriculture into school curriculums across Newfoundland and Labrador. (CBC)

A Pasadena university student is hoping to get more young people interested in farming and food production by bringing the farm to the classroom. 

Abigail Penney studies agriculture at Dalhousie University, and is working on a pitch to introduce agricultural programs into schools across Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I believe that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve access to nutritional, affordable food," Penney told Here and Now Friday.

"I think that Newfoundland has huge, unmapped potential for agriculture, and one of the steps we can take toward becoming a more self-sufficient province is educating our youth."

The call comes just days after the provincial government allotted 700 acres of Crown land for large-scale potato production near Deer Lake, an investment to help the government meet its goal of doubling the amount of food produced in Newfoundland and Labrador, from 10 to 20 per cent of the province's needs, by 2022.

By introducing agriculture into the school curriculum, Penney hopes more young people would learn about where their food comes from, and potentially take an interest in farming.

"I've always had a love for animals … and I also had a passion for cooking and baking. And I started to realize that I could connect those two things in the agriculture industry," the 19-year-old said.

"I started volunteering at farms … and that's where I gained a lot of exposure. Specifically around children and agriculture, just realizing how little children knew about where their food came from, but how enthusiastic they were to learn."

Newfoundland and Labrador has the chance to do agriculture the right way.- Abigail Penney

Penney said putting more of a focus on agriculture could also help the province economically and decrease the dependance on food imported from elsewhere.

"Newfoundland and Labrador has the chance to do agriculture the right way. A sustainable way from the start," she said.

This cleared land at Junction Brook, east of Deer Lake, is some of the 700 or so acres that has been leased to three farming operations for commercial potato production. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"We're going to create jobs for people coming out of school and we're going to inspire them to want to go into the workforce and potentially boost our food security."

Penney said she's now working to make contact with the province's education department, with the goal of highlighting the importance of the industry to as many young people as possible.

"Food sustainability affects all of us, so even if they take nothing out of it other than some backyard gardening skills, than that's OK," she said.

"I think just by giving youth that exposure, it's something that they're more likely to consider."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Here & Now

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