“Close your eyes. Picture a farmer,” Donalee Jones said to a class of grades three and four students. She then asked them to come up to the board and draw a farmer.
Donalee and her husband both grew up on farms in rural Manitoba. In 2008, the fertile prairie fields called them back to farming. They now have a 2000 acre farm near Cartwright, Manitoba. For the most part, farming has been a great choice for their family. Although they practice environmentally sustainable farming techniques and won Manitoba Conservation District’s Farm Family of the Year in 2013, she has still found consumer perception of farming to be a challenge. Even living in a small town, surrounded by farms, she finds it frustrating that so many people are disconnected from and misinformed about agriculture.
In 2018, Donalee began volunteering for Agriculture in the Classroom-Manitoba to help educate kids about farming. In her four classroom visits during Canadian Agriculture Literacy Month (CALM) she asked grades 3 and 4 students at the beginning of her presentation to draw a farmer. In every single class she saw the same result. That stereotypical Old MacDonald. A man with overalls, a hat, beside a tractor, a piece of wheat placed firmly between his teeth.
Over the course of the hour that followed, Donalee told her story. She told the kids about growing up on a farm, and her own farm that she now works with her husband, kids and in-laws. She showed them photos and read them a book she had created about her own kids on the farm. The students were inspired to tell her stories of other farmers they had heard of or met.
At the end of the hour of sharing, laughing and learning, she once again asked the students to close their eyes and picture a farmer.“A farmer looks like you! Or me! I could be a farmer,” exclaimed one girl.
If you would like volunteer to do a classroom visit for CALM in 2020, click here for registration information!
Since 2015, Donalee has also been the Senior Producer for Manitoba's longest running, locally-produced cooking show Great Tastes of Manitoba, which showcases locally grown ingredients and food experts from seven commodity organizations representing Manitoba's farmers.