A B.C. teacher believes that keeping youth in tune with food and where it comes from is key to a sustainable future in agriculture.
The word agriculture encompasses many topics; it is the art and science of cultivating soil, growing crops and raising livestock. It is an invaluable industry that not only provides most of the world’s food, but also materials for clothing and construction.
Teaching chef Teresa Diewert is bringing 30 of her Guildford Park Secondary students to the upcoming engAGe event in Vancouver, an event geared towards growing the future of agriculture.
Organizers hope to introduce non-farm students to the world of career opportunities in this sector.
Taking place at UBC on Feb. 11, the action-packed event will immerse students in a day of learning and exploring the diverse pathways into agriculture and food careers, including science, technology, engineering, math, business and many more.
The event will be held in partnership with AgScape, the voice of Agriculture in the Classroom in Ontario and the British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.
Every day, approximately 50 students at Guildford Park Secondary prepare food for the school cafeteria. However, this is no ordinary group of students.
The North Surrey high school is home to an ethnically diverse student body who are encouraged to incorporate their culture’s food into what they produce.
Diewert says her program aims to instill good habits in youth.
“I’m hoping the kids will get a sense of the ease of cooking for yourself, so that they don’t end up going and buying processed foods and things that just aren’t that good for them,” she said.
In addition, Diewert says allowing the students to cook food from their own cultures makes them feel more at home.
Sometimes however, Diewert will throw the students a curve ball. A part of the Take A Bite of B.C. program, the cafe receives food from different vendors around the province. In true Top Chef fashion the young chefs must work with what they get; even oysters.
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(Students from Guildford Park Secondary. Submitted)
The group of forward-thinking youth have their eyes on the future. The school as a whole focuses heavily on sustainability by practicing low-waste, composting, and more.
However, they haven’t forgotten their roots. One of their regular stops outside of school is to a local farm.
A good portion of youth, especially in urban areas like Surrey, have never been exposed to where food comes from.
“They’re not really thinking about it as teenagers,” said Diewert. “So I think when they get into the kitchen and they see what they can do, there’s just this level of pride, and I think things open up a bit for them.
“They realize oh, yeah, I could do this at home.”
Furthermore, the school works with the company Gordon Foods Services, which Diewert says works hard to build relationships with local farmers to ensure they have a sustainable future as well.
The teaching chef says there area some common misconceptions about the Agriculture industry. To her, the term is self explanatory. However, for youth, it might not be.
Many students, when they enter her program, think the only thing they can do with the skills learned is become a cook. Referencing the upcoming engAGe conference, Diewert says it will be good to expose them to different sides of the industry.
The system, which Diewert describes as the process of getting food from the ground to your plate, is extremely complex and multi-faceted.
“The more I think that young people can figure that out, I think the more chance there is that they will be involved in a more sustainable agriculture world,” said Diewert.
“I’m hoping some kids will catch that bit of vision and move toward better ways of doing things.”
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) says the upcoming engAGe event is what the agriculture sector needs.
FCC president and CEO Michael Hoffort says agriculture is a great connector for people in a variety of fields. He says he looks forward to what the next generation brings to agriculture, and that engAGe is a perfect place to ignite that interest.
“As students consider their own career paths, engAGe is an exciting chance to discover what attracts so many people to Canada’s agriculture industry, either on the farm or beyond,” he said.
Reading this in Ontario? Not to worry, engAGe is coming to Toronto in April. To learn more, visit Agriculture in the Classroom Canada’s website here.
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