Farm outreach with a global perspective

Christine enjoys a little R&R on her family’s combine

By Christine Wilkinson

It’s been a long and winding road to get to where I am now.

I grew up on a farm in Milton, Ontario.  Yes, Milton – a Greater Toronto-Area city that had a population of 25,000 people when I was a kid, and now has over 100,000 residents.  Right out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I knew I wanted to travel and help people, so I went to school for International Development at the University of Guelph.  Being a farm kid, I chose to specialize in agricultural development because that was my other area of interest.

In my third year I had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program, and attended the University of Essex in England.  To make myself feel more at home, I joined the Young Farmers Club of the UK – and it was the best thing I did while I was there.  I made friends from across the county, and even one from Australia (she also had the idea to join while working as a nanny in a nearby town).

I quickly realized that agriculture isn’t just an industry or sector; it’s a community and a family. Although I was pretty involved in 4-H growing up, my experiences in England made me realize how lucky I am to be part of a global community.

Showing cattle for 4-H

I took my experiences overseas home, too. As my undergrad came to an end, like most students, I struggled with figuring out what I wanted to do next.  After taking courses in agricultural communications, and rural extension, I decided to apply for the Ontario Agriculture College’s Masters of Science program in Capacity Development and Extension.

I didn’t really know what all of that meant, but I knew I wanted to learn more about improving public trust and teaching people about agriculture.  I’ve become very passionate about this topic, especially over the last few months, while working with Farm & Food Care as a summer student.

Prior to working with Farm & Food Care, I worked on a public farm in Milton doing outreach and education programs, as well as leading/interpreting tour groups and school field trips.  In these roles, I’ve realized how passionate I have become for agriculture, and showing people the story behind their food.

At the time, I may not have thought my undergraduate program was the best fit for me, but it ended up being a pretty interesting path. I’m still doing outreach, and continue looking forward to sharing what agriculture is all about.

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