March 6, 2014

Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Mr. Speaker, I’m happy and pleased to rise on behalf of the PC caucus to recognize Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week. We need to do much more to educate people on where our food comes from and how it’s produced, as well as increase the knowledge of how it’s prepared.

Last year when we held local food round tables around the province, the number one thing that we heard was that we need to increase food education. Today, there are too many people who don’t understand how their food is grown, they don’t understand the hard work that goes into producing it, and they don’t understand the capital investment that farmers make and need to make. They don’t consider a career in agriculture because they don’t understand the opportunities that are available. In fact, a recent study by Farmers Feed Cities found that only 41% of 18- to 34-year-olds said that they knew where their food comes from.

It’s part of a bigger problem of people who are no longer learning about food. Instead of trying to just ban junk food, we should teach students the skills to make smart, balanced choices. Last year, when we put forward an amendment which would have required that food education be taught in all grades, we wanted to ensure all young people had the opportunity to learn nutritional knowledge, basic food skills and where their food comes from.

Just last weekend, I was at a conference organized by the Ontario Home Economics Association. I heard the results of a study that that amendment had found it had 94% support. We heard support for it from all different sectors. But when the Local Food Act went to committee, the government blocked the amendment. I’m happy that the Premier acknowledges agricultural literacy week today, but I would have preferred instead that she had taken concrete steps to improve agriculture literacy by supporting our amendment. It’s not enough to say the right words, Premier. We need action to increase agriculture literacy.

Today, whether a student learns about their food and where it comes from depends too much on which teacher they have. Some have great agriculture knowledge and are working hard to ensure that their students are getting food and agriculture education. There are a number of organizations, such as the Dairy Farmers, Egg Farmers and the Grain Farmers of Ontario, that are working hard to provide speakers and materials to make that possible. I particularly want to recognize Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc. for their work to bring agriculture into the classroom. They act as a resource for teachers looking for quality agriculture information, and they’ve launched a website,, that promotes careers in agriculture.

I also want to recognize organizations like FoodShare Toronto, Tastebuds Hamilton and the Ottawa Network for Education, who are raising awareness of agriculture and local food by promoting the Great Big Crunch, which will have people in schools and workplaces eating local apples this afternoon. I know that the PC caucus is looking forward to biting into great Ontario apples at 2:30, because the PC caucus understands the importance of supporting Ontario’s farmers and increasing agricultural literacy. We understand how hard our farmers work and how much they contribute to our province. We understand the importance of celebrating events like agriculture literacy week, but I want to assure you that our commitment to agriculture, food and rural Ontario doesn’t end when the week does.