Farm @ School Agriculture Education Program
For the past 15 years, Neubauer Farms has offered an on-farm agriculture education program to students from Medicine Hat & area. During this time, we have proudly welcomed over 20,000 students through our farm gates to teach them all about where their food comes from and that agriculture is the fundamental connection to life. One of the main challenges for schools is the lack of funding and flexibility for older students (Grade 4 and up) to visit a farm to learn more about the Canadian food system. With this in mind, we have developed a concept to bring the farm to them. Through COVID-19 we have also learned that on-line learning platforms are an effective means to teach students. The Farm @ School will harness the power of the internet to reach students in inner-city schools across the province. In the ultimate leadership opportunity, students of the Farm @ School program will become producers of information and fortify their learning by teaching their peers, all from a digital medium. What sets this idea apart from other agriculture education programs is the partnership with Prairie Rose School Division. From credit mapping, to curriculum extension, involving this progressive school division will be a integral component of the success of this program.
The Farm @ School program will cultivate connections between urban and rural by empowering the generations of tomorrow to learn about where their food comes from. This proposal sees the development of an on-farm classroom constructed right in the playground of Irvine School, a Hamlet in Cypress County, Alberta. Farm @ School will fortify rural communities by building agriculture capacity in youth. In parallel, the students enrolled in Farm @ School programs will become ambassadors of agriculture through a direct, intentional and technical outreach strategy.
Farm @ School students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will connect virtually with students from city schools across the Province. The outreach component of this strategy will be known as the “Pen Pals Program”. Farm @ School students will learn how to compose effective video logs, will utilize communication strategies through various social media platforms and will tell their “story” to showcase the day to day operations of the Farm @ School enterprise. The Farm @ School program will be a one-of-a kind, portable farm yard, constructed right in the playground of Irvine School, making for the ultimate outdoor classroom education experience.
Who Will it Benefit?
The Farm @ School program has the potential to re-shape how rural education is delivered across the province and beyond, aligns with the student values outlined in the Alberta Education Curriculum, while at the same time, has the unlimited potential to build in-roads with urban communities to create vital connections to educate people all about where their food comes from. Students, teachers, farmers, parents and the community of Irvine will experience the benefit of this outreach program. It also will strengthen urban / rural ties to agriculture which will ultimately lead to increased trust and understanding of the food system.
To conclude the growing season, the Farm @ School students would organize and host a “Harvest Gala” right in the gymnasium of their school. In a celebration of their effort, students would host a farmer’s market to sell their school-grown produce, play a compilation of videos and slideshows and students would tell the story of their Farm @ School experience to showcase their work and learning. If the school has access to a kitchen (some rural schools have fabulous commercial kitchens) students could cater a meal and sell tickets to the event. One of the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) classes offered to Junior and Senior high school students is “catering and event planning”. Preparing a meal with produce that the students had a hand in growing would create the ultimate connections to develop a holistic understanding of “where your food comes from”. During the Harvest Gala, all livestock would also be auctioned off to eliminate the challenges that come with looking after the animals during the cold winter months. This event has the opportunity to generate sustainable income to be re-invested into the Farm @ School program. Additionally, another revenue stream potential would be if the Farm @ School program hosted students from city schools to learn about agriculture. In the ultimate leadership development opportunity, Farm @ School students would have the opportunity to develop and present agriculture rich material to their peers from the city. A fee schedule would be implemented, and funds generated by field trips would be re-invested into the program. Students would operate the Farm @ School program as a social enterprise. This opportunity would lead to the development of a wide range of business skills, including: entrepreneurship, decision making, budgeting and cash flow, just to name a few.