Ag In the Classroom


Agriculture In the Classroom (AITC) is a national organization designed to promote all types of agriculture through hands on, interactive learning experiences. This year’s Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM) topic was excellent (How did that get in my lunchbox?)! Students really connected with the idea of finding out where their food came from before it got to the store. I was able to participate with students in grades 1 through 3 and their observations and questions were amazing!

  • Where do seeds come from?

  • Sunflowers move to follow the sun.

  • How long does it take seeds to grow?

  • Look - I have clementines in my lunch bag!

  • My Dad helps make fertilizer which helps plants to grow.

And, possibly my favorite too… Can we put our hands in the seeds again?


If you haven’t experienced and Ag In The Classroom event, it worth checking out the opportunities - as a classroom teacher, farmer or ag-related industry representative.

Read more about one of my classroom visits at the teacher’s blog page:


Open Farm Day - Manitoba

Yesterday farms and agricultural venues across Manitoba opened their doors to the public for Open Farm Day. This is a great opportunity for everyone to learn and explore agriculture. No matter if you live on a farm or have never visited a farm, there is something for you to enjoy! This year we explored the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Center, just south of Winnipeg. This was an amazing venue, that I didn’t even know existed, and I would highly recommend a visit. We were able to interact with activities related to beef, dairy, poultry and hogs as well as grain farming and food production. There were activities for kids of all ages, and displays for adults too. I enjoyed the virtual reality feedlot tour, the girls put the milking machine on Matilda at least 10 times each and Marcel enjoyed letting the girls push every button in a cab that wasn’t his!

Day old piglets, milling flour, collecting eggs and the milking machine, plus much more!

If you missed it this year, put the Open Farm Day on your calendar for next year, and get a close up look at agriculture. With venues across the province and featuring all different types of experiences you are sure to find something to interest you.

More Farm Femmes: Pam Bailey

After first reading about Pam in Country Guide we knew that we wanted to talk to Pam.   As FarmFemmes, we were interested in what made her take on the challenge of becoming the first woman on the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) board of directors, and what she has learned along the way.


Q. What experiences prepared and equipped you to feel capable to take on a board role?

A. Growing up in a small community in Nova Scotia was really the foundation for Pam’s strong feeling of connection to community.  After experiences in 4-H and Young Farmers, Pam had a good background in parliamentary procedures and governance.  However, as is often the case, it took a personal connection to prompt Pam to consider a board position with MCGA.  Chuck Fossay is the current president and also Pam’s neighbour, so when Pam asked where all the women and young people were, Chuck encouraged her to fill out the nomination papers.

If you are not happy with your situation, then learn the process and change it. - Pam's parents

Q. How did you get the inspiration, and know-how, to make this happen?

A. Pam’s upbringing helped her to feel confident in navigating a nomination process, and the clear and transparent directions on the website make it easy to learn what MCGA required.  The real question, which helped Pam frame her decision to complete the nomination papers, was “What do I have to be afraid of?”  In other words, what would a “fail” look like.  Pam looked at that question from the perspective of governance, farm planning, environmental issues and agronomy, and realized that although she didn’t know everything, she knew enough.


Keep reading tomorrow to learn more about what made the Manitoba Canola Growers Association the right fit for Pam AND what else she has on the go.

Making sense of farming

We all have a lot to learn about farming - no matter if you are a farmer, farm extender, farm femme, farm agvocate or farm interested - there is always something more to learn.  One of the best ways to learn new things is to learn together with kids, because of their natural curiosity and willingness to “get right into it” with all of their senses.

Here are some suggestions for getting our senses going as we learn about farming with our kids:

  • See, touch, taste and smell: make a meal together

  • See: read fiction and non-fiction books about farm-life

  • See, touch and smell: take a farm tour (Open Farm day)

  • See, touch and taste: attend a farmers market

  • See, touch and hear: attend a “touch-a-tractor” event

  • See and hear: watch farmer-created YouTube videos

  • See, touch and smell: visit a greenhouse

  • See, touch, smell and taste: plant some seeds

When we engage our senses, we increase the connections in our brain and we strengthen our learning and the memories that we are developing.  We can also increase our learning by:

  • Talking about what we are experiencing
  • Noticing similarities and differences (to personal experiences or something you have read)
  • Connecting to an emotion (through memory or empathy )
The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.
— Alexandra K Trenfor


The Language of Learning- Words Matter

Our brains are busy hubs of activity.  There is a lot to pay attention to and farms are busy places. Our senses can be on overload – especially if we are not used to being on a farm.  Sometimes it can be hard to pay attention to the task at hand or to manage our emotions.

Here are some tips to remember when teaching kids (and adults too):

1.  Use positive language, in other words, tell them what you want them to do.

  • Wait until the truck is turned off and walk in front of the truck so that Dad can see you coming.
  • Get yourself to safety first, if you can, and then call 911.

2. Be specific.  Telling kids to “be good” or trainees to “be careful” does not help them to know what that looks like or sounds like.

  • You can ride along but you need to stay in your seat and be quiet to listen when someone is talking on the CB radio.
  • Pay attention to the power line that crosses the field and open your auger when you are clear of the lines.

3. Be real.  Get dirty and do experiments: plant seeds in the sandbox, dig up roots, open pods… And don’t expect every experiment to end in success.  It is important to let kids discover what works and what doesn’t.  The same is true of adults – that is the whole premise of field trials and research plots.  We want to try it for ourselves to see what works.  Kid’s experiments can be just for fun, but adult experiments should be more structured and intentional; although there still might be surprises!

  • Determine your purpose and focus before you start (minimize input costs, maximize yield, reduce people-power required to complete the task, increase protein, reduce fuel required).
  • Set parameters for experiments before you start to minimize risk (physical and financial).

 Finally, remember to have fun.  Hands-on learning is naturally fun.  Remember to let the fun happen.  Having a one-on-one lesson in the driver’s seat of the combine is way more interesting than reading about the combine in the manual. 


Have Fun &

Learn something...

The best way to learn about how plants grow is to get started and plant a seed. 

Little Learners

Sometimes learning comes easy to us, and other times learning is hard work.  Why is that?  Blame it on our brain structure.  We need some place to anchor our learning - a place to “hang” it in the walk-in-closet of our brain, otherwise it becomes one of those long-forgotten items that fall behind the dresser.  I have experienced this in my own farm learning… Marcel has explained put options and call options in marketing to me at least a half-dozen times.  However, because this isn’t part of my usual farm function it gets lost "behind the dresser".  As a trained teacher and farmer extender, one of my key roles around our farm is education and training for our kids.  There is a lot to learn about a farm operation.

Farming 101:  I love it that the girls recognize all sorts of farm equipment and can talk about soybeans and scratchy stubble.  And, I think this makes Marcel equally happy and proud to be raising two farm girls.  But they didn’t turn into farm girls by accident; I am constantly teaching.  Every time we take a meal to the field, drive to school or play in the yard we are talking about what we see and hear.  So, here are five easy ways to bring the farm to conversation with your kids:

  •  Make a meal together.  Talk about what you are eating and what it is made of. 
  • Read fiction and non-fiction books about farms and farm-life. 
  • Attend local small-town fairs and festivals – many Manitoba festivals are named after fruits, veggies and farm products and have strong ties to agriculture.
  •  Attend a free ag event, like Open Farm Day
  • Participate in contests, like SAFE Farms Drawing Contest
  •   BONUS ACTIVITY: Watch fun videos! 
    • Peterson Farm Bros for fun music parody videos
      • My favorite – Frieling Farms Harvest 2016.  It’s about the people, not just the equipment…

Back to the closet – hopefully for each of these activities you and your kids can talk about the “hangers”.  How can we connect this farm learning to what we already know?  Clearly, this depends on the age, experience and interest of your kids (or young adults).  Some easy ways to increase connections are:

  • Talk about similarities and differences to your own experiences or situation
  • Connect with more than one sense (smell, texture, sounds)
  • Connect to an emotion, either through memory or empathy

New learning isn’t so much about specifically what we connect new information to, or even how we connect it.  Rather, the key thing is that information gets connected - it needs a rack to hang on.