Earlier this week I made the trek south to the border town of Gretna, Manitoba to visit one of my old high schools and give a presentation to the Agriculture Class on ag and social media. Gretna lies on the International border and has a population of approximately 500 (For more info. visit the town website http://www.gretna.ca/index.html). The town is also home to the Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI), a private Christian boarding school. I spent my final two years of high school (Grades 11 and 12) at MCI. Prior to this I attended public school in Crystal City, which is near my family farm.
I was invited to speak to the class by a former classmate, Toby Wiens, who now teaches at the school. Mr. Wiens, who’s a southern Manitoba farm boy himself, began the Agriculture Class this school year. The class is an elective course for any Grade 10, 11 or 12 student wishing to explore the wonderful world of agriculture. There were approximately 15 students in the class on the day I was there (remember this is a small school). I was also pleased to see quite a few girls in the class as I feel we need more women involved in agriculture. And apparently the girls were happy to hear that their guest speaker that day was a woman!
A few weeks ago, Mr. Wiens asked me what I’d like to talk about during my presentation. I suggested the topic of agriculture and social media. I assumed the students would be familiar with most social media tools, especially Facebook and YouTube, and I was correct. In fact, the students are so familiar with Facebook that the popular site has been blocked for student use at the school. Before my presentation, the students hadn’t made the connection between agriculture and social media. To them, social media, such as Facebook, is just a way to connect and share with their friends. But through my presentation, I tried to show them that social media can be a way to share agriculture’s positive stories with others, including urban consumers. It’s a way to connect farmers and consumers. And we also discussed how we can use social media tools to get our positive message out.
There’s currently no provincial curriculum for an agriculture course so Mr. Wiens is left to develop his own. He said he’s used some Agriculture in the Classroom material. He’s heard that the province is looking at developing an agriculture curriculum. This would be a positive step forward for the ag industry. I feel all schools – rural and urban – should offer an agriculture course of some kind. This would help students make the connection between farm and food at a younger age.
While myself and Mr. Wiens did have to rein the students in a few times, I was pleased with their attention and interest. (Needless to say, I had forgotten how rambunctious teenagers can be! And now I’m just sounding old!). I had a great time discussing ag and social media with the students, and I thank the MCI Agriculture Class and teacher Mr. Wiens for inviting me.