Who needs Luke Skywalker to fight the Death Star when you have farmers as warriors?

If you’re among the many – including all the finalists in this year’s Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition – who believe a better understanding of modern farming should begin early and formally in schools, take heart.

In early December, just prior to the Grow Canada meetings in Calgary, final steps will be taken to establish a national Agriculture in the Classroom organization.

It’s being driven by current staff of provincial Agriculture in the Classroom programs, who believe now’s the time for a nationwide body to get in gear.

To me, this is a breakthrough.

This national effort has grassroots written all over it, which is exactly where such an initiative should start…much in the same way education about agriculture should start early and involve the people who know it best, people who work to keep bias out of the classroom and provide young people with farming facts.

The lack of awareness about agriculture is a national problem, and not just for farmers. Agri-food is one of our biggest industries, and the understanding of it is abysmal (in Ontario, 93 per cent of consumers say they no little or nothing about farming). Although education is a provincial matter, farming, eating and learning is not. It’s time for a national Agriculture in the Classroom program.

This week I saw education on a different level, when Farm and Food Care’s Heather Hargrave, a University of Guelph Aggie who now runs awareness programs for the organization, appealed to young people to speak up on behalf of their profession.

She told 30 University of Guelph students gathered for the 2013-14 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (CanACT) that huge, well-organized, professional activist groups in the US who oppose modern farming are spreading their influence and money in Canada.

These activists aren’t just taking to the streets – they’re meeting with politicians and other decision makers to try to influence public policy.

“In Star Wars talk, it’s like fighting a Death Star… armed with only a handful of small Jedi warriors, and no Luke Skywalker,” she said.

But it’s not a doomsday scenario if farmers get in gear and stand up to the rhetoric, which is what she urged the partisan CanACT crowd to do. Use cheap and effective social media to your advantage, she said. Farming doesn’t need rock stars and movie stars to support it. It already has the best ambassadors: farmers.

However, as farming intensifies and hungry people get hungrier, farmers can’t lose sight of their role in food production, either. They need the Heather Hargraves of teh world, and CanACT members, to spread the word.

And they need a national Agriculture in the Classroom organization to help guide teachers’ and students’ exposure in schools to farming, where it counts the most.

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