A child today, adult tomorrow: The impact of teaching children about food and farming

Friday, May 3, 2019

Children in an agriculture Kids’ Club in Haiti show the recycled rubber tires in which they plant nutritious tomato plants. (Photo: Justin Eisinga)

Learning tour highlights similarities between countries

Tenesha Lawson is the communications coordinator for Agriculture in the Classroom Manitoba (AITC-M). In December, she travelled to Haiti on a Foodgrains Bank learning tour where she met families affected by hunger and visited projects responding to hunger.

I was eight years old when I planted my first seed. I remember germinating three delicate little beans in between two damp pieces of paper towel. When it was finally time, I used my bare hands to scoop fresh soil into three Styrofoam cups, making a new home for my wonky-looking beans.

This was one of the few experiences I had as a child discovering how my food was grown.

Not much has changed over the years. Many kids today have little to no knowledge of food and farming.

Agriculture is not a formal part of curriculum in Manitoba. Also, many of us live in the city where we get food from the grocery store where it is accessible, fresh and abundant.

I saw the complete opposite in Haiti. In Haiti, many families farm for a living. For them, the ability to grow food that is healthy and abundant is critical for their wellbeing.

Out of all the places we visited, the Kids’ Club stood out to me the most. It’s like a Haitian Agriculture in the Classroom for 100 students between the ages of 3-18.

I was thrilled to see so many students take pride cultivating their gardens. They showed us how they turn organic matter into the soil instead of slashing and burning, how they terrace the soil to prevent erosion, and how they use multi-cropping to ensure there is always something ready to eat.

Eleven-year-old Alexis Bercalensky showed us how they grew tomatoes in recycled tires. He said he took tomato plants home to teach his parents how to care for the plants.

Working for AITC-M, I see the impact a garden can make in a student’s life, but it’s incredible to see the impact it makes in an environment where food isn’t accessible and abundant. The kids I met in Haiti have an undeniable connection to the land. This Kids’ Club will only grow and expand their passion and knowledge for food and farming.

—Tenesha Lawson, Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba