Member Spotlight:
John Sandborn, Farmer
Benito, Manitoba

John Sandborn has seen the world change from the farm near Benito, Manitoba, where he’s grown wheat and canola for more than 30 years.

A shifting climate and growing season, more wildfires and drought – and a weakening connection to the land.

“In my generation, almost everyone knew someone with a farm. That connection is rare these days. Fewer and fewer people know how important farmers are — and always will be — to feeding our world.”

John is concerned about agriculture’s future. About its ability to adapt to these changes. About making sure tomorrow’s decision-makers and consumers understand what farmers need to do to get food from their fields and onto our plates.

But what to do about it?

After hearing Sue Clayton, our Executive Director, speaking on the radio about Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba’s programs and resources, John decided to volunteer for the organization by talking about agriculture to students in local classrooms.

But as it turns out, farming schedules and school schedules don’t always mesh – and an unreliable internet connection make it impossible to connect with students virtually.

He’d have to find another way to make a difference.

John’s situation isn’t unique — but his commitment to contributing to agriculture education, and the means he found to accomplishing his goal, make him truly exceptional.

This December, during our December Giving campaign, he donated $5,000 – an exceptional gift for which we couldn’t be more grateful.

“I’m a big believer in getting students into our fields to show them first-hand what we do and why it’s important, but making that happen isn’t always easy,” he explains. “This December I decided to put my money where my mouth is.”

Why John’s gift matters

There’s never been a more urgent need for agriculture education in our province. Agriculture is Manitoba’s largest industry. Sharing our story with students from kindergarten to Grade 12 is like planting a seed.

“What students learn or don’t learn today about our industry will impact our tomorrow. And whatever we teach students, they share with their friends and families. The word spreads.”

Donations like John’s help us develop new programs and resources to drive discovery, expand and extend our current offerings, and build new ways to reach classrooms spread across a vast geographical area – ensuring we spread the good word about agriculture.

John’s donation supports the Manitoba Seed Kit, a new resource we’re rolling out in March. The more money we raise, the more kits we can deliver to students — kits that teach them about the 15 most important crops in our province, and the many ways they’re used.

John already knows how vital crops like his are to our economy. Since he can’t get into every classroom to spread the word himself, donating to AITC-M makes it possible for us to do that for him, while leveraging our experience and expertise in creating fun and engaging tools that connect directly to school curriculum.

Planting seeds for the future

Sparking curiosity in young minds is, in John’s view, one of our best hopes for ensuring a vibrant future for Manitoba agriculture.

“We need their creativity to develop more crops that can adapt to a changing climate, and put current crops to new uses that feed more people in healthier ways.”

Despite the challenges we face, John takes an optimistic view of the road ahead. He already sees more young people taking up agriculture jobs in his own community. He knows organizations like AITC-M are doing good work inspiring students to consider careers in agriculture.

He says thinking about the future — not just the present — should be a top priority for farmers of all ages.

“More of us need to look beyond our own fence to the farther horizon.”

It’s possible John thinks this way because he takes the needs of others into account as a matter of course. On this frigid winter day, for instance, he’s halfway out the door to plow snow from the roads leading to and from his neighbours.

When today’s snow melts into spring, John will watch the seeds he’s planted grow again — in the fields of his 1,000-acre farm, and in the minds of the thousands of young people he helped us reach.

If you’d like to have a direct hand in supporting agriculture education, contact us about making a donation today.