by Gloria Welton
Marilyn Balderston grew up on a farm, which she says has taught many life skills that she wouldn’t have learned otherwise. In her present role with Agriculture in the Classroom, she loves to see the amazement on the faces of the grade 11 and 12 students in the genAG Program as they learn about the impact of agriculture in our lives.
“The work we do in collaboration with teachers and students across the Island is so instrumental in sharing the importance of agriculture. We want students to know where food comes from and why people need to consider this area as a career path.”
“Research says by 2050 we will need to grow and distribute 60 percent more food to feed the world’s population. The agriculture sector needs youth to be involved so that we can continue to meet the demand to produce enough food for our future.
“I was blessed to grow up on a family farm. I can remember my grandfather Harrison Balderston milking cows and playing tricks on me by spraying me with milk. My dad Lowell Balderston has been involved in farming all his life. He started by plowing fields using horses and he came full circle by raising standardbred horses that race on the Island, throughout the Maritimes and even in the United States.
“My two sisters are involved in agriculture as well. Nancy is a grade three teacher who is always doing things with the kids related to agriculture. The students love seeing our horses and being a part of our farm. My youngest sister Lori began her university career at Nova Scotia Agriculture College and graduated in the first Dalhousie Faculty of Education Agriculture class. She is using her research skills in her current position here on the Island.
“We are fortunate that our father is still farming, and our mother Sally takes care of the behind the scenes responsibilities to keep the farm operational. She was raised in Charlottetown and did not come from a farming background. She has been instrumental in raising a family, doing the bookkeeping, grading potatoes every season on the potato harvester and in the warehouse, all the while being a tremendous support for all of us.”
Marilyn’s educational background has been a multidisciplinary approach. “I have always been a person who has wanted to help people and I am a lifelong learner. I have my Master’s in Education and Counselling. My learning also comes from travel and the cultures I have been exposed to in opportunities such as exchange program while in university.”
The majority of her work has been with people in the not-for-profit world and in adult education. “I also do other work in holistic health, and agriculture has always been my love.”
For the past five years she has worked as a genAG Coordinator with Agriculture in The Classroom PEI, a program which is offered across Canada. It is a unique career exploration program that inspires high school students to consider pursuing careers in agriculture and food.
“I am blessed to work with students and teachers sharing information about agriculture and the importance of why we need young people to be interested in this field. The teachers are always amazed how the program gets students engaged to the point where they want to share with their peers about careers in this area. Some of the students are far removed from agriculture, so it is amazing to see them become passionate advocates of agriculture by the end of the genAG Program!
“The students become so inspired they come up with amazing ideas to share with their peers. Some say the program has changed their career path and now they are studying and working in agriculture and they love it.”
Marilyn says the success of this program means it is offered in both school semesters for the first time this year. “The teachers involved in the genAG Program have been exceptional and are true partners in the success of genAG! The educational system has endorsed genAG to be a valued learning experience that impacts students lives so we couldn’t be happier.”
“I’ve learned just how connected agriculture is to our everyday lives,” says a PEI student. “The production of food and the careers connected to it greatly impacts all of us.”
For more information about the genAG program, contact Marilyn Balderston at [email protected]
Visit Agriculture in the Classroom at www.genag.ca/en-ca
Visit the PEI Agriculture Sector Council at www.peiagsc.ca