Prince Albert Elementary School Students Get “The Real Dirt on Farming“

by 5m Editor
31 May 2008, at 6:23am

CANADA - By the end of June, about 150 grade five, six, seven and eight students from three Prince Albert elementary schools will have had a hands-on taste of agriculture.

The “Real Dirt on Farming” tours, a program coordinated by the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board (Sask Pork), aims to get both urban and rural elementary school students out onto primary production operations.

Program Strives to Build Agricultural Awareness

“The purpose is mainly to show students where their food comes from, from a production level, as well as introduce them to possible careers in agriculture,” explains Sask Pork agricultural education coordinator Jessica Podhordeski.

“These days children seem to be so far removed from the farm that we'd like to show them where their food comes from,” she says. “We started these tours in 2007 where we visited a dairy farm, a beef operation, a potato farm, and the Pork Interpretive Gallery. This year’s tour includes a honey farm, a bison ranch and the Pork Interpretive Gallery.”

“It’s hands on learning,” observes Red Wing Elementary School teacher Angela Nordstrom.

Nordstrom was one of the teachers who accompanied about 50 students from two classes on one of the tours.

She explains, “So much of the time we get to read about these things so it’s kind of nice that they got out to actually see and touch first hand. As well, at this stage, students are starting to lose a little interest in school so it’s nice to get them out of the classroom for a bit and engaged in learning again.”

Young People Unaware of Career Opportunities in Agriculture “I think it's really important to introduce young people to farming,” says Bill Nash of Moose Meadow Apiaries near Prince Albert.

Moose Meadow Apiaries is a 600 to 700 colony honey operation which produces, on average, 230 to 250 pounds of honey per hive.

Nash observes, “It’s becoming increasingly difficult both to find help to work on farms and also to find people to become bee keepers.”

At meetings he notices everyone is getting on in age and there are fewer and fewer young people coming into it, probably because of the high wages being offered elsewhere.

“I think it’s really important to show people that you can enjoy yourself doing this kind of work.”

Nordstrom acknowledges, “Students aren’t really aware of agriculture.”

“We’re a rural school. However, most of our students at this school live on acreages. Their parents aren’t farmers. It’s amazing to me how little they do know about agriculture. So even though that’s our main industry in Saskatchewan students just aren’t familiar with a lot of things.”

She appreciates the opportunity for the students to see where their food comes from and the process it takes to raise animals.

“It's amazing how city children are interested,” says Josef Saxinger, the general manager of Sagehill Buffalo Ranch near Cudworth.

The operation is a 650 to 700 head bison ranch and it is the second stop on the 2008 “Real Dirt on Farming” tours. The ranch markets bison meat at the farm gate and through farmers markets.

Saxinger, who has hosted several tours including groups from China and Europe, finds these types of tours to be valuable. “It promotes, number one, my business. Number two, it promotes a healthy low fat product of red meat.”

Farm Tours Contribute to Two Curriculums

Nordstrom says the tours mesh well with the curriculum in both science and social, primarily for grades seven and eight.

“At the bee farm we were taken through a tour of the process of making honey.”

“We weren’t up close with the bees being that we wouldn’t want anyone to get stung. But we got to see the hives and the honey process. At the bison farm we actually went on a wagon tour right in the fields and got up close to several bison herds. We went through the barnyard to see how they do different techniques with the bison to immunize them and different other types of things they do on the farm. Then at the Pork Interpretive Centre, we went through the whole tour that they have set up there which we got to see the whole process of care for the pigs and all that that entails.”

Children Drawn to Young Animals

The small animals appear to create the most interest on the tours.

“They actually really enjoyed the Pork Interpretive Centre,” says Nordstrom. “I think they enjoyed seeing the baby pigs. We also saw the baby calves on the bison farm and the baby bumblebees so they were kind of intrigued with seeing these tiny animals which was kind of neat.”

Saxinger agrees, the children are most excited over babies in general. “Right now they’re (Sagehill Buffalo) through calving and we have about 170 little calves. They are nice and they are very playful and young people really enjoy it.”

“It's quite nice to have the kids come out,” says Nash. “I found the kids were very polite. They had some interesting questions to ask and just generally seemed interested.”

He recalls, “We pulled some brood combs out of one the hives so that they could see the larvae and the eggs and the pupa and just how the hive is set up. We also had honey tasting. They enjoyed that.”

Program Well Accepted

“I am thrilled to be a part of this program,” says Podhordeski. “The children seem to thoroughly enjoy the day outside and being able to see the animals or the machinery. A lot of these students have not experienced anything like that before.”

Nordstrom also considers the program to be a huge success.

“The purpose of the tours as well,” she notes, “was trying to encourage students to go into different careers in the future in terms of agriculture. That started a lot of buzz with them talking about other opportunities they could have for their future which was kind of neat. They didn’t realize there were certain jobs open to them in that area.”

5m Editor