Agricultural education is very important right across the country, and understanding how agriculture impacts each and every person is vital from a young age. Recently, education programs École-O-Champ (EOC) and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada (AITC-C) developed an online learning platform called connectAG. This platform partners with members of AITC-C in each of the 10 provinces to showcase farming across the country, with the main point being to teach about where food comes from. Like all EOC’s initiatives, this is a curriculum-linked education project.
Rockburn’s Brandon Maither is the farmer representing Quebec for connectAG. Maither works on his family farm with his parents Jim and Judy Maither, his wife Emily Langevin (who is also a teacher), and his two-year-old daughter Kennedy. He has known the founder of EOC, Mathieu Rouleau, since they competed against each other in 4-H. They also graduated from Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) in the same year and attended McGill’s Macdonald College at the same time.
Maither’s farm deals with various elements of Quebec agriculture, which is one of the reasons why he was selected for this project: “[Mathieu] reached out to me for this program because he considers my farm to be a little bit more diversified. We’re a dairy farm and we cash crop a little bit and we produce maple syrup as well.” Maither was excited for the opportunity to be involved; he says it is “really important that everyone knows where their food comes from, so they get the right idea and the right perspective of farmers.”
One of the reasons why agricultural education is so important is because of the misinformation that can spread like wildfire on the internet and throughout social media. Regardless of opinions and food preferences, Maither worries that “It can be damaging for some consumers down the road to not get access to the proper information.” This is why he is so enthusiastic about this new platform. “I was really happy to hear about this program because it’s great for young kids to start right off the bat knowing exactly how farmers treat their animals, the things we do to feed them and look after them every day, and the fine-point details.”
For Maither, offering as many opportunities as possible for students is crucial. “I wish there were more programs available for kids to have the opportunity to take field trips out to farms more, learn more about animal and food production, and more [work] stages available for young students throughout grades 9 to 11,” he says, mentioning that many young people get to their last year of high school and still aren’t sure what to for college. Being able to see how diverse the opportunities in agriculture are, and how farming directly impacts each citizen, can help young people see a future for themselves on this career path.