Agricultural literacy week grows into a month in P.E.I. classrooms

Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week is expanding to a full month of activities as organizers try to grow agricultural awareness in P.E.I. students who are no longer connected to farming.

'There's a lot of students who don't necessarily get out to rural P.E.I.'

Craig Dingwell is one of about 50 volunteers across Prince Edward Island who visited Grade 3 classrooms to talk about agriculture. (Submitted by P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council)

Prince Edward Island students are being encouraged to find out more about farming through a Canada-wide program called Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month.

"We like to think that P.E.I. is still very rural and that people still do have that connection but our volunteers for reading week go into classrooms in Charlottetown, in Cornwall, even in Summerside," explained Rayanne Frizzell, national coordinator for Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month.

"There's a lot of students there who don't necessarily get out to rural P.E.I., who don't have a connection to a farm."

Where milk comes from

This is the sixth year for the project, which used to be Agricultural Literacy Week but has now expanded to a full month because of interest from teachers across the country.

P.E.I. Agriculture minister Alan McIsaac was one of the volunteers at past Agricultural Literacy Week events. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council)

"It really is about telling the story of agriculture," said Frizzell.

"It's important for students to know that the milk they have, whether they drink it at school or at home, how did that milk get to them? It didn't actually come from the refrigerator in the grocery store, that there is a story before it got to that point."

Volunteer readers from agriculture

The P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council and the P.E.I. Agriculture Awareness Committee oversee the program on the Island, which includes people from the agricultural industry going into almost every Grade 3 classroom to read a book about farming created specially for the event.

Each year, there is a new book about agriculture that volunteer readers share with Grade 3 students. (Submitted by the P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council)

The book this year is What's Growing Around Us? and about 50 volunteer readers will visit schools across the Island.

"It's definitely an experience that teachers come back year after year and request and ask for and sign up very quickly for," said Frizzell.

New this year is a social media component where people in the agricultural industry, youth groups and consumers can compete for prizes by sharing a live Twitter video telling their connection to food, from producing it to consuming it, with the hashtag #myfoodstory.

For high school students, there will be a live stream webinar about food waste and a new product called Arctic Apples.

Agriculture Adventure Days

Also new to P.E.I. are Agriculture Adventure Days at the end of March.

Volunteer Ila Matheson talks about her experience in agriculture as part of last year's activities. (Submitted by P.E.I. Agriculture Sector Council)

"We're going to bus in close to 1,000 Grade 3 students to the Eastlink Centre and they'll learn from commodity groups, farmers, industry professionals, for about two hours, ten to twelve minutes at each station," explained Frizzell.

"That's our opportunity to highlight what big things are happening here on P.E.I. within different sectors of the industry, so that's a really exciting piece for P.E.I. to add."

The goal this year, said Frizzell, is to reach over 30,000 students in over 800 classrooms across Canada in March. 

"It's about two per cent of the Canadian population that feeds 98 per cent of the population so I think it's important no matter what province you're in," Frizzell said. 

Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month is funded by Farm Credit Canada.