Farm-Based Studies On the Rise- New Farmed Toolkit Can Help Schools Build Ag-Based Programs

Rayann Campmans, a Grade 12 student from Picture Butte High School, was inspired to create an agricultural program for her school. The program, which aimed to expose students to farm-based learning, gained popularity and drew 56 students this year. The school applied to the creation of the FarmEd Toolkit, Developed by the Rural Development Network, a farm-based learning guide, inspired by a successful school farm project at Altario School in north-central Alberta.

The Altario Agricultural Academy was launched in 2020, and its student-led farm is the hub of numerous learning activities. The farmyard facility houses livestock such as chickens, turkeys, geese, pigs, sheep, and cow-calf pairs. With $300,000 in funds from sources like the Prairie Land Public School Division, the school also recently added a modular, containerized hydroponic operation where students grow leafy greens.

Students in grades one through six act as farmhands, while those in grades seven to 12 assume leadership positions. Their agrarian projects are tied to career studies, and morning chores are followed as needed throughout the day. Students are encouraged to think of farming as a river, with its opposite banks representing educational value and sustainability.

“We really thought there would be opportunity there for other rural schools to implement similar experiential learning initiatives with school farms,” said Lisa Belanger, Rural Development CEO.

Funded by the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Rural Development formed an advisory board and launched a pilot project to create the FarmEd Toolkit. They conducted focus groups with students and staff at Altario and a few other schools that expressed interest in farm programming. Picture Butte High School and Irvine School participated in 2022 as pilot project partners, shaping the final version of the Toolkit.

The FarmEd Toolkit now serves as a guide for communities and schools to invent their own farm-based learning initiatives.


Joy Vonk