FREDERICTON (GNB) – More New Brunswick students are digging into agriculture this year thanks to the launch of the new Agriculture in the Classroom program.

“Farming is an important part of our economy, creating jobs and providing livelihoods for New Brunswick families,” said Agriculture, Mines and Rural Affairs Minister Andrew Harvey. “Your government is proud to support the Agriculture in the Classroom program. By educating children about the bounty of healthy, nutritious foods available close to home, we are helping the next generation of consumers make informed choices about the foods they eat.”

The program supports teachers with educational resources and provides hands-on learning experiences to students. The program is designed to connect more students with agriculture and nurture an appreciation for the nutritious food grown in the province.

“Implementing this program in New Brunswick is a crucial step for our industry to be recognized and better understood through connecting youth, educators and parents to one of the most important economic sectors in our rural communities,” said Mike Bouma, president of the Agriculture Alliance of New Brunswick. “I truly believe that the program will help us achieve that and fill the knowledge gap we are currently experiencing in agriculture.”

The initiative is being delivered by the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick with the support of the federal and provincial governments through the Growing Forward 2 funding program.

The alliance is a non-profit organization that works to promote a sustainable and prosperous agriculture industry while being the voice for farmers around the province.

The Agriculture in the Classroom project will receive $60,000 from the New Brunswick Food and Beverage Strategy. It will also receive $19,900 from the Growing Forward 2 program that is cost-shared on a 60-40 basis between the federal and provincial governments.

The New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan is the provincial government’s plan to grow the economy and create job opportunities. It outlines how the government will mobilize to ensure there is a co-ordinated, complementary effort to improve New Brunswick’s economy and realize maximum benefits. The plan has outlined the importance of enhancing efforts to promote the consumption of locally produced food and beverages.

The Growing Forward 2 program is a five-year (2013-18), $37 million, cost-shared policy framework agreement that provides funding to support innovation, competitiveness and market development, adaptability and industry capacity for producers and processors in the province.

“‎Our government recognizes the vital importance of connecting Canadian youth with the world of opportunities that exist in today’s farming and agri-food industry,” said Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. “Initiatives like this will help highlight the importance of farming to students, encouraging them to play a leadership role in ensuring an even stronger and more innovative agricultural sector in the long-term.”

DeCourcey attended for federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

Co-operation and support from schools throughout the province is important to the program. All classrooms are welcome to express interest in participating.

The New Brunswick initiative is closely affiliated with the national, not-for-profit organization, Agriculture in the Classroom – Canada (AITC-C). Since February of 2015, AITC-C has been delivering resources on the agriculture and food production industry.

New Brunswick’s agriculture and food industry is an important driver of the province’s economy, contributing over $570 million in farm cash receipts and more than $1 billion in processed agri-food products every year. The sector employs more than 13,000 people in the province.

Educators interested in delivering the program in their schools and producers and agrologists interested in sharing their passion for agriculture are encouraged to contact either the program co-ordinators; Stéphane Sirois, (francophone sector) at 506-474-0314, coordinator@fermeNBfarm.ca or Courtnay Kinsbury, (anglophone sector) at 506-452-8101, education@fermeNBfarm.ca; or contact Josée Albert, CEO of the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick at 506-452-8101, josee@fermenbfarm.ca; or visit the Agriculture Alliance of New Brunswick website.