It’s a Ruckus in the Riparian Area!

Today’s guest post is from the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, also known as “Cows and Fish“. It is a non-profit society striving to foster a better understanding of how improvements in grazing and other management of riparian areas can enhance landscape health and productivity, for the benefit of landowners, agricultural producers, communities and others who use and value riparian areas. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to come see us at Aggie Days TODAY and TOMORROW for FREE at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park! We are open from 10am  - 4pm!

The Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society (more commonly known as Cows and Fish) brings to Aggie Days a fun, interactive, and sometimes crazy game show that creates a ruckus in the riparian area! Cows, Fish, Cattledogs & Kids! educates children and family audiences on the importance of healthy riparian areas, the green zones of water-loving vegetation next to streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. The game focuses on the links between healthy riparian areas and healthy and productive fish, wildlife, vegetation, water, cattle and the landscape or environment as a whole. Participants are divided into two teams and “moooove” their cow game pieces along the riparian zone after correctly answering a question posed by the game host in one of the following categories: vegetation, fish, wildlife, water, mother nature and cattle. The winner is the first team that reaches the “ranch”. Amandas Twins KPearson

Cows and Fish is working with landowners and their communities to foster a better understanding of how riparian areas function and how we can manage those areas to improve or maintain their health. The program is a partnership that includes both non-government and government partners. It involves producers, conservation organisations, and agricultural agencies. Funding is provided by that same diverse spectrum, primarily through grants. Initial and formal partnerships for Cows and Fish include Alberta Beef Producers and Trout Unlimited Canada. KCountry, AB, Headwall Lakes

The Alberta SPCA Booth is Expanding!

The Alberta SPCA is a registered charity dedicated to the welfare of animals.They encourage the humane treatment of animals through enforcement of animal protection legislation and through education programs throughout Alberta. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

The Alberta SPCA is returning to Aggie Days and we are excited to be a part of its 30th anniversary!

Domestic animals, including the livestock that you will see around Aggie Days, depend on people to meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter and care. Here at the Alberta SPCA, our mission is to protect, promote, and enhance the well-being of animals in Alberta. By educating people about their responsibilities and encouraging respect and compassion for animals we can help to improve animal welfare and prevent cruelty and neglect.

This year we have expanded our booth and are offering even more ways to learn about animals.
game
Students are welcome to challenge friends to a board game race by answering questions about farm animals, pets, and wildlife. Students can also play an interactive iPad quiz game to test their animal smarts. Those who play our game will get a “Kindness Counts” button to take home!

What’s more is that participants who visit the Alberta SPCA booth can get their picture taken in our “Kindness Counts” photo booth. We encourage everyone to share their pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr using the #kindnesscounts hashtag.
#KindnessCounts
Swing by our booth and join in on the fun – we hope to see you there!

Aggie Days Bridges the Gap Between Farms and Food

Today’s blog is submitted by AdFarm, a marketing and communications agency focused in the agriculture industry. AdFarm spoke with Danielle and Debbie Lee about the upcoming Aggie Days and their commitment to agricultural education.

This week, Calgary Stampede Aggie Days volunteer Danielle Lee celebrates the event’s 30th year – shortly after her own 30th birthday. She hasn’t missed an Aggie Days yet, thanks to the influence of her mother, Debbie Lee. Debbie has been involved in Aggie Days since the very beginning, first bringing in Jersey calves and leading the cow milking demonstrations, which both Lee women still do today.

Operating a mixed livestock and hay farm near Springbank, Alta., the Lee family lives agriculture every day, and understands that very few people have the same level of exposure to food production.

Debbie Lee. Photo by Kim Taylor.

Debbie Lee. Photo by Kim Taylor.

“When we started Aggie Days, people were maybe one or two generations removed from the farm,” Debbie says. “Now, they’re two or three generations, and many don’t understand the connection between the farms and food in the grocery store.”

Continue reading

Greenhouse Vegetables in Alberta

Today’s blog post is submitted by the Greenhouse Branch/Crop Research & Extension Division/Agriculture and Rural Development. They are a highly respected hub for applied research, production trials and training that is well known for being responsive and user friendly, collaborating with its clients and providing world class innovative services. Their mission is to provide greenhouse research and production resources that enhance Alberta Agri-business

Alberta has a thriving greenhouse vegetable industry with the majority of growers in the Red Cliff/Medicine Hat area. Currently there are approximately 152 acres in Alberta dedicated to greenhouse vegetable production with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce being the main crops grown. You will find vegetables grown in Alberta greenhouses at your local grocery stores. Greenhouse sizes vary from 1 acre to 15 acres in size.

Brooks

Commercial greenhouse structures are extremely technical highly automated systems. All environmental conditions are recorded by sensors and controlled by computer software.

final website bar

When we were approached to have a booth at Aggie Days, initially we were not sure what to showcase. Being our first year, we have chosen to showcase some different hydroponic systems. Urban gardening seems to be a hot topic these days and these systems are easily adapted for the home gardener or even for those living in small units such as apartments or condominiums. Be sure to stop by our booth and chat with us at Aggie Days!

Agrium Seed Survivor

Today’s blog post is about Agrium Seed Survivor and they will be at Aggie Days this year April 11 & 12, 2015 at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park. Seed Survivor is a free curriculum-based program that teaches elementary children about plants and the importance of agriculture.

Seed Survivor Exhibit_2011 040

Agrium creates and sells nutrients that farmers and gardeners need to care for their soil and grow healthy plants. They also provide other helpful products to farmers and give advice on how to grow the best crop on the land they manage.

Seed Survivor Exhibit_2011 047
Seed Survivor was designed to teach youth that plants need water, light, healthy soil, and nutrients, Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), to survive.

At Aggie Days, children and parents get a chance to play a variety of fun, interactive educational games and plant their very own sunflower at our Exhibit – 35′ X 35′ display. Our Seed Survivor displays travels all over North America year round. On their website they have a “Just for Kids” section with colouring, videos, games and more! Be sure to come and plant a seed and learn about agriculture at Aggie Days.

Seed Survivor Exhibit 2011 022

From Horse Power to HP – The Mechanization of Prairie Agriculture Part 2

Once again we have Terry James guest posting on our blog to finish our series on the mechanization of prairie agriculture! Terry is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917. He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry. Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle. You can read Part 1 of this series here.

An early thrashing machine

An early thrashing machine

It is difficult to argue that one machine is more important than another on a farm as all are necessary, but for many years, the tractor was the machine that enabled the others to operate. The tractor began as a self-propelled steam engine, the “traction engine.” A pioneer in the manufacture of steam engines for farm use was a man by the name of J.I. Case. Early steam engines were used to provide power for the threshing machines, but were stationary. Case added wheels to some of his to make them easier to move and in 1876 he brought out a model was that suitable for pulling a plow. JI Case and the company he founded went on to manufacture many more tractors throughout the years and eventually merged with the International Harvest Company.

Another American entrepreneur was also very active at this time. In 1837 a young blacksmith name John Deere came up with the idea of using polished steel in a plow. His “self-scouring steel plow” was an almost instant success, and the company he founded continues to thrive today.

When a homesteader first arrived in Alberta his plow was probably pulled by a team of oxen. However as soon resources permitted, the oxen were replaced by draft horses similar to these. After World War II,  the replacement of draft animals with tractors proceeded quickly.

When a homesteader first arrived in Alberta his plow was probably pulled by a team of oxen. However as soon resources permitted, the oxen were replaced by draft horses similar to these. After World War II, the replacement of draft animals with tractors proceeded quickly.

 

 

Continue reading

From Horse Power to HP – The Mechanization of Prairie Agriculture Part 1

I am so excited to have Terry James back guest posting on our blog. He has a passion and wealth of knowledge for agriculture. Terry is a mixed farmer who lives near Vegreville, Alberta, on the farm his grandfather first moved to in 1917. He studied agriculture at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and worked for a number of years in the crop supplies industry. Currently he is a full time farmer. Together with his brother and son, they farm about 2000 acres of grain land, and maintain a commercial herd of beef cattle. You can follow Terry on Twitter.

Anyone who has visited an Alberta farm, or been to one of the several agricultural shows that occur each year across Western Canada, has no doubt marveled at the size and complexity of today’s farm machinery. Even farmers are continually being surprised by the latest offerings from today’s agricultural engineers. Tractors with global positioning guidance systems, milking robots, and smartphone apps are just a few of the tools of the modern farmer.

Museums such as this one in Vegreville, can be found in small towns throughout the prairies. They highlight the changes that have occurred in Western agriculture over the years, and help connect current generations with their farming heritage.

Museums such as this one in Vegreville, can be found in small towns throughout the prairies. They highlight the changes that have occurred in Western agriculture over the years, and help connect current generations with their farming heritage.

Seed Drill

Jethro Tull’s seed drill

It has not always been so. As little as two generations ago, draft animals were a common sight in rural Alberta. The mechanical revolution in agriculture was well underway when the first farmers arrived in Alberta, but early settlers arrived with little money and little access to farm machinery. Some of the first crops were seeded and harvested by hand, as they had been for centuries. The first purchase for many settlers was probably a plow, and a team of oxen, which was used to turn over the virgin prairie soil. Seed was broadcast by hand, and lightly harrowed in. It was then up to Mother Nature to supply the rain and sun, until in the fall, the grain was harvested with a scythe, and manually thrashed.

The mechanical revolution in agriculture began in England at the start of the 18th century. There it is said, an ambitious man by the name of Jethro Tull, grew weary of admonishing his farm workers to pay more attention as they planted the crops. As one can imagine hand seeding often resulted in plant populations that were often too thick in spots and too thin in others. Tull was able to use his technical skills to develop a mechanical seed drill that used a fluted cylinder to meter the seed. The seed then fell into a tube that placed it at an appropriate depth in the soil, and it was then covered by a harrow like device attached to the drill. Many modern seed metering devices still operate using similar principles. With the plants growing in rows as a result of Tulll’s drill, another innovation was enabled. Mechanical cultivation to remove weeds was now a possibility.

Towards the end of the 18th century another invention was perfected and this one had serious social implications. In Scotland Andrew Meikle developed a machine that separated the grain from the stalks of cereals. He called it a thrashing machine. Prior to that flails had been used to beat the bundles of grain to free the seeds and the seeds were then winnowed from the chaff by hand. Thousands of men were employed to do this over the winter months, and when their livelihoods disappeared, they rioted, destroying thrashing machines and threatening farmers. These were referred to as the Swing Riots, after a name that was appended to some of the threatening letters. It did not end well for the rioters as 9 were hanged and 450 were sent off to Australia.

Flail

A volunteer at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton illustrates the use of a flail, a tool that was used by early pioneers to separate the grain from the straw.

North America was the scene of the next major development. Steam engines had made portable threshing machines possible, but the cutting of the grain was still done with scythes and cradles (a multi-bladed scythe). It is Cyrus McCormick who is generally credited with developing an effective reaper, although others were working on similar machines at the same time. However Cyrus McCormick’s design and manufacturing skill eventually won out and his McCormick harvesting company eventually went on to become part of the International Harvester Company. His machine used a reel to hold the grain against a reciprocating knife. The grain fell onto a platform, where two men raked and bundled it together into sheaves. Eventually that process was mechanized as well and with the addition of a mechanical knotting device, it became a binder. A number of years later an Australian was able to put together the reaping and threshing components into a single machine, a combine. The term has stuck, even though on many Alberta farms, the reaping function may be done by a swather.

Please come back for part 2 tomorrow!

Aggie Days and Dairy Cattle accommodate special needs children

The 30th anniversary of Aggie Days has me reflecting on how much the Agriculture Education committee has accomplished throughout the years. I’d like to share a few of my top memories with you today.

First, let me introduce myself. I have been involved with Aggie Days almost from the very beginning. Although not actually on the Agriculture Education (Aggie Days) committee at the time, I was involved with the Dairy Committee and Aggie Days shared the barn with the Dairy Show. So in 1986, during the first Aggie Days, I helped bring in Jersey calves for the school program. I joined the Aggie Days committee shortly after that. I have been doing the cow milking demonstrations for many years with the help of my whole family.

One of my favorite memories of Aggie Days was when we invited Paul Brandt to come and sing for the special needs children as their lunch time entertainment. My daughter Danielle, who was 10 or 11 at the time, wrote him a letter asking him to come to Aggie Days as he was going to be in Calgary for a CBC televised concert in the Saddledome. She mentioned how much her younger brother Jeff loved dancing to his songs and that Jeff was developmentally handicapped and would be at Aggie Days. Paul’s manager contacted us and said that Paul would try to come and sing. Paul did come and sing for the kids in the Victoria Pavilion and the kids danced and clapped along. Paul also took some extra time to meet Jeff and Danielle and gave us tickets to his concert. It was truly a memorable experience!

Aggie Days _blog1

Children at Giddy-Up Aggie Days getting to know the dairy cattle inside the pen.

One of the best accomplishments with Aggie Days was getting special needs schools their own time at Aggie Days. My son Jeff attended a school program for special needs children and we invited them to come to Aggie Days. The handibus dropped the kids off at the barns about 45 minutes before the regular school buses arrived. Our exhibitors welcomed the wheelchairs into the pens with the animals, which let the kids come up close to touch, see and smell. Everyone really enjoyed the extra special time they spent showing these kids their exhibits and animals without a crowd. It was decided the following year to have Aggie Days Wednesday morning dedicated to the special needs schools and children. Now the Queens’ Alumni Giddy-Up Aggie Days for special needs children and their families is held on the Saturday of Aggie Days.

Aggie Days _Blog2

My daughter, Danielle, introducing one of our Jersey cows to the kids during Giddy-Up Aggie Days.

Out of the cows that we brought to Aggie Days, one particularly memorable one was Bluebell the Jersey cow, who attended for at least 10 years. Bluebell was brown, with a few black highlights, but her most distinctive feature was a white heart on her face. She absolutely loved people she would have. Most of the time Bluebell’s pen would be open so the kids could go in and pat her. Quite often you would see her laying down, happily chewing her cud and surrounded by kids. Some would have their ear to her stomach listening for her baby, some would be laying on her and some would be hugging her.

Aggie Days _Blog3

My daughter, Danielle, opening the pen so children in wheelchairs can touch, smell and feel the dairy cattle up close.

We would also take kids in wheel chairs in to see Bluebell and she was very still and patient so the kids were able to touch her.  She loved every minute of it. Every year in the barns, we would unload her and she would walk right into her pen. In the mornings she would be watching the entrance to the barns from the Victoria Pavilion, because that is where the kids came in. At home she would come to the gate of the corral when she saw the trailer that she rode in, and walk in without hesitation. Bluebell also came to Country Critters at Stampede time as part of Ag-tivity in the City for many years. She was such a special cow that kids would come back to visit her year after year. Bluebell’s legacy lives on as Bluebell, the hand milking cow, was named after her, (even though the plastic Bluebell is a Holstein).

Aggie Days _Blog4

Bluebell, the plastic handmilking cow used for interactive learning displays. (Named after Bluebell the loveable Jersey cow.)

People of all ages should come to Aggie Days every year because the animals change from year to year, there are always a few new displays, and everyone can learn something each and every year. It is extremely important that everyone understands where their food comes from. Over the years, I have had people with young children come to Aggie Days and tell me that they watched me milk the cows when they were in school and now they are bringing their children to see it. It makes me feel old but proud that I have had such a part in teaching people about agriculture and specifically dairy cattle.

Aggie Days is open to the public on April 11-12 and takes place in the BMO Centre, Stampede Park.

Win a VIP Tour of Aggie Days!

It’s that time of year again—Aggie Days is getting close! Every year we host a family on a VIP behind the scenes tour with special accesses that only our VIP family gets to see! Last year’s family had a blast and we hope that you enter to win our giveaway to get the same experiences they did. The tour will be on Saturday April 11 and hosted by our volunteer, Teresa.

Enter To Win VIP Tour

Click here to enter

Good luck!

Supply Management – It’s A Good Thing

Today’s guest post is from Agatha Smykot. She is the Producer Services Administrator at the Egg Farmers of Alberta. She was born and raised in Edmonton and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Alberta. She has worked for a poultry processor and global animal health company and has a passion for agriculture and poultry production. Agatha is also an avid snowboarder, foodie, and indie music lover. She lives in Calgary with her boyfriend, their rambunctious dog, and a deaf cat. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

At the Egg Farmers of Alberta, I’m responsible for processing all quota transactions between registered egg producers in Alberta. It goes without saying that I have an intimate relationship with supply management. I believe in supply management, and I believe it benefits both consumers and producers.

First, let’s take a step back – what is supply management? Supply management is a uniquely Canadian system that balances demand and supply.

It operates on three pillars:

  1. Production discipline – the number of eggs produced matches demand to limit market fluctuations and maintain price stability
  2. Pricing mechanisms – ensures that Canadian egg producers receive a fair price for their products
  3. Import controls – borders are open to a predictable number of imported products

Supply management was first introduced in the late 1940’s, but it wasn’t fully implemented in the egg industry until 1967. For over four decades, producers have worked together to keep Canada’s egg industry stable and free of government subsidies. Canada’s egg industry is completely self-sufficient.

Supply management is good for consumers, because it ensures that consumers have access to fresh, locally-produced eggs and egg products. When you purchase eggs at the grocery store, you’re directly supporting a local farmer. If you ask me, that’s great news!

Supply management encourages producers to invest back into their farms. For example, a producer can suspend production for one year to build a new barn – producers earn quota credits and increase production for subsequent cycles to make up for lost time. This and other programs encourage producers to make continuous improvements to animal health and welfare. Alberta is a leader in this regard. In fact, a producer in Alberta was the first producer to install an enriched/furnished housing system in Canada, and one of our producers won the inaugural Canadian Poultry Sustainability Award.

eggs

 

Continue reading

Alberta Chicken Producers – Who Are We?

Today’s guest post is from the Alberta Chicken Producers. Who are they? Read on to find out and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

DSC_1758

Alberta Chicken Producers is a provincial ‘farmer-run’ organization, representing our 245 registered chicken farmers in Alberta. Our chickens are raised for meat consumption.
Our farmers are local families who are passionately committed to providing consumers with safe, high quality, locally produced chicken, raised under the highest standards of animal care and food safety.

  • 100% of chicken farmers in Alberta are certified under national Animal Care and On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Programs as a condition of their licenses to market chicken.
  • Our farms are audited and certified annually by a third party auditors.
  • Our farms are 100% family owned and operated
  • By looking for the “Raised by a Canadian Farmer” label in your grocery store, you know you are getting fresh chicken. In fact, the majority of fresh chicken sold in Alberta was raised in Alberta.

DSC_1633

Our industry is growing sustainably.

  • Our 245 farms produce over 128 million kg live weight of chicken annually, with a farm gate value of over $203 million. All of this is accomplished without subsidies or taxpayer dollars.
  • 69% of Alberta’s Chicken farmers are between the ages of 18 and 49. In 2013, Alberta saw 9 new entrants into the chicken industry.
  • Our unique combination of youth and experience has cemented our place in Alberta’s dynamic economic environment for years to come.

We place high value on the partnerships that define our industry.

  • We are part of a community, an integrated value chain, working closely with hatcheries, processors, feed companies, researchers, and agriculture boards at the provincial and national level.

DSC_1762

Alberta Chicken Producers values our relationships with industry stakeholders, as exemplified by the Shared Industry Vision:

“To continue to grow, be profitable, and satisfy consumers by providing safe, high quality chicken products.”

In support of this Shared Industry Vision, Alberta Chicken Producer’s Mission is:

“To serve our producers by collaboratively providing an environment for profitable chicken production and encouraging a competitive, consumer-focused chicken industry.”

Our booth will be operated by the best experts in the chicken industry….our farmers!! We will have baby chicks, a chicken barn display unit and plenty of give-aways. Our farmers look forward to answering any of your questions.

DSC_1875

Chicken is the most popular protein in Canada, and we look forward to sharing our story!

Horsemanship at the heart of Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race

The Calgary Stampede is excited to be hosting an Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race on Sunday, April 12.  The race, which is a multi-faceted equestrian sporting event that showcases both horse and rider as they maneuver through a series of obstacles, shows amazing horsemanship and incredible speed. The event coincides with Aggie Days, an exhibit-style event geared to help youth learn about agriculture.

David Cowley, an extreme cowboy competitor, is eagerly waiting for this spring’s competition. “[The race] is a lot of fun,” he says, “and having a competition that focuses on the trust and relationship between horse and rider is great.” His first extreme cowboy race was in 2010 during Stampede time at the Cowboy Up Challenge and he has been a competitor in the Aggie Days Extreme Cowboy Race since last year.

CowboyUpv1

Cowley adding a little extra flair to the competition by standing on his horse to rope the dummy at last year’s Cowboy Up Challenge during Stampede time

Cowley is well-known in Calgary for bringing his horse to the top of the Calgary Tower during Stampede time. “There’s nothing better than seeing peoples’ faces when I walk out of the elevator at the top with my horse,” he says with a laugh. Cowley has trained and taken six different horses up the tower over the past 15 years. This year, he will be bringing Tucker, a palomino quarter horse. Cowley appreciates the opportunity to promote the Stampede and western hospitality. “People don’t often understand how strong the bond can be between horse and rider,” Cowley says.

CowleyAtopCalgaryTower

Cowley crouching on the glass floor at the top of the Calgary Tower with his horse Tucker

Training a horse to feel confident and comfortable enough to ride the elevator all the way up the Calgary Tower, then walk around and take photos with guests, is a big task and requires a strong bond between horse and rider. Cowley loves strengthening this bond and is thrilled to participate in a competition that focuses on this trust.

Continue reading

Aggie Days then and now

Aggie Days, taking place from April 8 – 12 at Stampede Park, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. This educational program, which features displays, exhibits, animals and more, has grown significantly over the years.

In 1986, the first Aggie Days program was created for school children to experience agriculture up-close and learn where their food comes from. Aggie Days took place in a small part of the Agriculture Barns and featured a few exhibits and animals, mainly dairy cattle. The school classes were accompanied by a tour guide that took them through the exhibits, through the show cattle at the dairy classic, and made sure the students arrives at their scheduled demos on time.

In the years following, the Aggie Days team added to the animal experience by providing sheep shearing, cow milking demonstrations and wagon rides pulled by heavy horse teams. The experience of what life is like on a farm was beginning to round out. All of the demonstrations showcased the importance of agriculture and the various types of agricultural roles that shape our world.

Aggie Days’ success thrived; the classes returned, year after year, and the committee was eager to exceed their expectations. The interest youth had in agriculture was a driving force to heighten their Aggie Days experiences; even more exhibits were added. Cattle presentations, rope making demonstrations, butter making, wheat grinding and bread making were new highlights of Aggie Days. At this time, Aggie Days grew to occupy half of the Agriculture Barns and expanded into the Victoria Pavilion, which was used for the cow milking and sheep shearing demonstrations, and the noon hour entertainment.

Aggie Days 1993 - Holstein kid and calves (2)

Aggie Days dairy exhibit in the Agriculture Barns 1993

Continue reading

Agriculture in the Classroom

We are excited to have a new guest post on our blog today, especially because Aggie Days is all about teaching school kids about agriculture. Allison Ammeter is a grain farmer and Director with Alberta Pulse Growers.  Alongside her husband of 28 years, Michael, Allison operates a third-generation grain farm southwest of Sylvan Lake, Alberta. The Ammeters crop approximately 2,000 acres in a rotation of canola, wheat, barley, and peas, with occasional oats or hay in the mix, practicing minimum tillage and using variable rate seeding technology. Based in agricultural zone 2/3, with grey wooded soil, the farm experiences an extremely short growing season every year by North American standards. You can follow Allison on Twitter.

I was asked to write a blog post for Aggie Days about Agriculture in the Classroom, and my first thought was that of course I’d like to promote Ag in the Classroom, it’s an amazing program, but these readers would know all about it, right?  I mean, these are people who organize another amazing program, Aggie Days. My second thought was that maybe people reading this blog would just like to know what is being taught their children in school. I’m writing this for that second group. I’m a farmer – 100% of my yearly income comes from growing crops, and I’ve lived on a farm all but about 5 years of my life (single female years). I absolutely love agriculture and Canada’s ability to feed not only so many Canadians, but also so much of the hungry world. When I realized there was an opportunity to tell my story to 10 year olds who likely knew very little about the agriculture around them, I jumped at it. That is how I got involved in Ag in the Classroom.

The Classroom Agriculture Program (CAP) was started by Vickie King, a member of the Alberta Women in Support of Agriculture, with funds from the Alberta Cattle Commission. I got involved in 1987, was set to teach in a local school, and was given curriculum that told all about raising cattle and all the various consumer products that eventually come from the animal. I couldn’t do it – I felt like as a grain farmer, I was really not speaking about anything I knew, so I backed out. Flash forward 25 years, and I find out that CAP is now supported by the Alberta Beef producers, but also the Barley Commission, Canola Producers Commission, Chicken Producers, Egg Producers, Pulse Growers Commission, Veterinary Assoc, Irrigation Assocs, Olds College, and Agrium. Farmers of all types are encouraged to speak to children about what they, as producers, know and understand. I’m back in!

Classroom Agriculture Program
CAP’s mission is to provide students with quality, comprehensive agriculture learning experiences that lead to a greater understanding and support for the agriculture industry in Alberta. It is presented to Grade 4 students across Alberta at no charge. Volunteers deliver the program story-telling, engaging props and fun activities, and leave behind fun student booklets for the children to learn more about each of the main agricultural products in Alberta.

When I go into a classroom, I am prepared to talk to the kids about crops in our area, because that is what I know. When a chicken farmer goes in – they talk about raising poultry. When a vet goes in, they talk about their work. That’s the beauty of the program, the children (and their teachers) learn about agriculture from people who are doing it and loving it. So, what do I do when I go in? I take shoe boxes full of samples of all the main crops grown in Alberta – wheat, barley, oats, canola, peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. As I’m passing them around, I ask the kids what they had for lunch, and point out what they ate that is made from what I grow (always enlightening for them). I give each of the kids a small handful of wheat for them to “make wheat gum, just like a farm kid”. I get one of them to grind wheat for me (with a portable hand grinder), to show them how flour is made. I roll out canola and show them the oil and the meal, explaining its use and purpose. I take hummus and show them the chickpeas it started as. I narrate a YouTube video from a friend’s farm of the growing season, answering questions as it plays.

Above all, I spend the hour interacting with the class (teacher included), answering any and all questions that are thrown at me.  My goal is to be a link between them and agriculture, and I always leave my contact information, telling them I’m available any time they have any questions or need any information. So much of Alberta’s population is no longer directly connected to our critical industry of agriculture, and I truly want to be a resource in my community for the teachers!

Alberta Farm Animal Care

Today’s blog post is written by Kristen Mortensen of Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC). You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.

Who are we?

Twenty-two years ago, Alberta Farm Animal Care was started by a livestock industry that recognized the need for moral consideration of farm animals in our care and, thus, is thoroughly grounded on ethical principles. We continue this tradition today by making animal welfare our main business as we develop into the collective voice of the livestock industry on matters of livestock care.

The value of AFAC lies in the focus on farm animals. Our staff have specialized in animal welfare and are skilled at understanding animal behavior, being able to interpret research, and providing expertise to our members on animal care or welfare issues/concerns.

So what are a few things that we have we been up to lately?

Well, coming up we have our annual Livestock Care Conference where members of the industry, researchers, students, government, and the public come together to address challenges and issues facing the livestock industry today. This year’s conference includes topics on social media, understanding animal welfare and consumer perceptions, and a cattle handling and body condition scoring workshop!

ALERT Line – A confidential call line for anyone to report livestock care concerns. We have a Resource Team that includes farmers and other rural community members who offer solutions to improve livestock care. As well we work with rural veterinarians, the Alberta SPCA and RCMP. The number is 1-800-506-2273.

So come by our booth and say hi! We have resources for kids, adults, and teachers on livestock welfare and care and are always happy to answer any questions!

AFAC Nenshi

Kristen Mortensen and Kristen Hall with Mayor Nenshi at Aggie Days 2014