It is harvest time in Saskatchewan for farmers and also for some elementary school students from around the province.
Approximately 13 schools in five different cities participated in Saskatchewan Food Farms this year. The purpose of the Food Farm program—offered in partnership between industry organizations, Agriculture in the Classroom and in some cases, the Ministry of Agriculture— is to grow the ingredients needed to make pizza, burgers and fries while actively teaching kids about where food comes from.
I met with approximately 60 students from École Victoria School at the Monsanto Research Farm north of Saskatoon. Monsanto is an agricultural company that sells seeds, crop genetic traits and crop protection chemicals to farmers. There are two Monsanto Research Farms in Saskatchewan—one in Saskatoon and another in Yorkton.
Students spent the morning harvesting ingredients they had planted earlier in the spring. With the help of volunteers, students had planted canola and wheat as well as tomatoes, peppers, garlic and onions. For herbs, they grew basil and oregano. The students were quite excited to see how large the plants had grown over the summer months and the number of vegetables that could be harvested from each plant.
There were nine interactive stations for students to visit, learning a variety of aspects of food production. Volunteers talked with them about combine and farm safety as well as discussed the many by-products of agriculture. Students ground wheat into flour and crushed canola seed to see the oil it produced.
The stations were designed to help connect kids and agriculture, and to deepen their understanding of the role agriculture plays in Saskatchewan. By focusing on foods that kids are familiar with, like pizza, the crops they see growing around the province are given a personal context.
The lessons didn’t just benefit the students, however. I met French teacher Sarah Ross at the event who is a Toronto native but moved west to Saskatchewan in February. Not having grown up in a farming community, she found the event informative. It was a learning experience for her to identify the different types of crops. It also reinforced for her how much of what is grown in Saskatchewan is used commercially.
The event also caught the attention of both the Canadian and North American Monsanto head offices. Jaclyn Henkleman from the Winnipeg, Man. office and Ken Mathias, from the St. Louis, Missouri office attended the event. Both agreed that it was perfect for students to make a personal connection to their food and that it was a great active learning opportunity.
After visiting the farm at Monsanto, students will receive a follow-up visit from an Ag in the Classroom staff member to make their own personal home-made pizzas. This allows students to further understand that nutritious food products are raised right here in Saskatchewan—whether it be dairy for cheese, wheat for pizza crust or pork for pepperoni.
For more information about Agriculture in the Classroom initiatives, visit their website.