Palmerston, Ontario – Students at Norwell District Secondary School (NDSS) have a unique link to the local agriculture industry thanks to a specialty program known as LEAF (Local Environmental Agriculture & Food).
Paul Frayne, a teacher at NDSS, recognized a need for the community’s young people to understand where their food comes from and to see the opportunities for future employment in the agriculture industry. He decided to start the LEAF program in collaboration with a few other community members. “We wanted to connect with as many local farmers and ag businesses as possible,” says Frayne. “There’s not enough awareness about food and agriculture, its impact on the environment, and the future of growing food.”
With the funds from the $2,500 grant from Bayer Fund’s Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities Program (CFGC), NDSS students had the opportunity to visit a variety of local farms and agriculture businesses to learn about what they do, how they do it, and why it’s important to the community.
Some of the money from the grant also went towards operating a small greenhouse and garden at the school. As part of the LEAF program, students have the opportunity to cook meals once a week using local agricultural products, as well as produce they grow themselves. “I was very thankful that someone in our community had applied for the grant on our behalf,” Frayne says. “It was very generous and we were able to have a couple of different experiences that we might not have been able to otherwise because we had the grant.”
According to Frayne, the grant has already shown an impact on the lives of some students, including two friends who are planning to take agricultural studies when they head off to college because of what they learned through LEAF. Frayne says he would encourage other schools, organizations, and charities to reach out to their communities to tell people about what they’re doing and why it’s important. He says it might just inspire someone to nominate their organization for the CFGC grant or others like it.
Lara Charlebois, a community member who grew up on a local farm (Cameron Farms) and the person who nominated NDSS for the CFGC grant, says she was excited when she learned that NDSS would be receiving the grant. “The LEAF program at NDSS is an important addition to the high school course options,” Charlebois says. “I saw this as an opportunity to help support this new program and offer a new, exciting experience to students from a smaller farming community.”
Charlebois says she thinks other farmers and community members should participate in the CFGC program because it’s an important way to get involved and has a very simple process.