Pulse Beat Individual Articles

Growing Agriculture Literacy

Agriculture in the Classroom logoJohn Gaudes, communications manager, AITC-M

In the heart of Manitoba, a movement is underway to sow the seeds of agricultural knowledge and appreciation in the minds of young Manitobans – and Manitoba’s pulse and soybean growers are key partners.

Led by Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba (AITC-M), this initiative isn’t just about preparing students for life outside the classroom. It’s ensuring the next generation knows agriculture and feels connected to its importance in Manitoba. 

Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG) has worked in lockstep with AITC-M to strengthen that connection by funding resources such as the Manitoba Seed Kit and Foundations of Manitoba Agriculture, as well as collaborating on innovative campaigns to educate students about pulses and soybeans.

For instance, in early March AITC-M invited MPSG to stage a “takeover” of its social media channels for Pulse and Soybean Week, a campaign aimed at educating teachers and students about the importance of pulses and soybeans to the Manitoba economy.

Public awareness campaigns like these are especially important as the disconnect between farm fields and dinner tables continues to widen. In just a few years, today’s Grade 6 students will graduate as tomorrow’s voters, consumers and workforce. Because it’s trusted by industry and educators alike, AITC-M is uniquely positioned to foster a deeper understanding of our industry’s challenges and provide opportunities in classrooms across our province.

“Securing the future of the agriculture and food industry depends on shepherding Manitoba students through a staircase of literacy, from awareness in early years to exploring career options in high school,” says Katharine Cherewyk, executive director of AITC-M. “We want every Manitoba student to leave high school understanding how many options exist for them in this amazing industry.”

Pulse and Soybean Week featured fun facts about pulses and soybeans, a pop quiz to test student knowledge, and reinforced pulse and soybean connections in AITC-M resources.

The week culminated in Follow the Soybean Farmer, the latest installment in a virtual farm tour series created by AITC-M, now in its third year. Over 500 Grade 3 to 5 students took part in a virtual visit with Lyle Peters at Henervic Farms, where they learned about planting, crop care, harvest and soybean nutrition. After a live Q&A, teachers had the option of extending the learning with a fun classroom activity where students produced bioplastic using soybean oil and household ingredients.

Teacher feedback on Follow the Farmers has been overwhelmingly positive and Follow the Soybean Farmer was no exception. Students filled the live chat with questions for Peters.  Those in Cheryl McQueen’s class at Victory School in Winnipeg were amazed to learn that Henervic Farms produces about 8.3 billion soybean seeds a year.

“Memorable moments like these bring students closer to the farm, and even combat misconceptions that may have already formed about the size of modern farms,” says Cherewyk.

MPSG has recognized how important moments like these are in forming young minds. 

“Agriculture education helps students connect with that pride and clearly see the connection between the food on their dinner plate and the work of the farmers who grew it,” says Daryl Domitruk, executive director of MPSG. “We’re fortunate to live in a country where food is readily available and affordable. Opening students’ eyes to agriculture’s local and global realities builds an appreciation of how agriculture impacts our everyday lives.”

Beyond pulses, it’s been a year of inspiring growth at AITC-M. The organization provided over 37,000 student experiences in 2023 from in-person and virtual programs. That number marks almost a 30 per cent increase from 2022.

Growth like this is only possible when commodity and industry partners row in the same direction: increased, long-term funding allows AITC-M to develop more high-quality, curriculum-connected resources to reach classrooms and meet teacher demand.

“Support from the agricultural community has never been more critical,” says Cherewyk. “I’m issuing a call to action for crop farmers and others within the industry to engage with and support AITC-M’s mission. Participation can take many forms, from advocacy and volunteering to financial contributions, all of which are vital for the continuation and expansion of our educational efforts.”

To join Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba’s movement to raise agriculture awareness, visit www.aitc.mb.ca.