A national chapter of Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is now an official not-for-profit organization and has elected Manitoba’s Johanne Ross as its leader.
Ross has led AITC-Manitoba as the executive director for more than 15 years. She began her new role as the chair of the organization’s national chapter on May 20.
“Johanne has worked passionately over the past 10 years to help the national group to formalize officially as a not-for-profit organization,” said Christa Wright, AITC-Newfoundland and Labrador representative and vice-chair of the newly elected AITC-Canada board of directors. “She has gained the respect of partners and stakeholders, which has allowed her to champion national AITC-Canada initiatives like Canadian Agriculture Literacy Week, introducing the importance of agriculture to over 30,000 students in 2015. Her collaborative nature and knowledge of agriculture issues across Canada make her the ideal leader to shepherd AITC-Canada into this exciting next phase.”
All chapters of AITC are designed to educate and create a link between youth and the agriculture industry with the hope of instilling a better understanding in urban audiences and possibly inspiring some to pursue a career in agriculture.
Ross will now split her time between AITC-Canada and AITC-Manitoba. Her role in the national organization will focus on developing relationships with government and industry, fundraising and delivering some national education projects.
“I have been involved with both organizations for a number of years and within the last three years the national board decided it was time to formalize our organization,” said Ross. “It is amazing since we have become official how many partners have already come forward to be involved with us in programming. I think this is the right time for this and the industry is very much behind us.”
The national organization currently has seven provincial board members, representing Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.
“One of the priorities I will have as chair will be to attract the provinces that are currently not involved. We would love to see New Brunswick, B.C. and the territories join us.”
As for the AITC-Manitoba, Sue Clayton, a former AITC-Manitoba board member, has been hired on as the associate executive director to fill the part-time gap. Clayton previously worked for the faculty of agricultural and food sciences with the University of Manitoba.
“Nothing will change in Manitoba in terms of our programming and education, we have just been able to add a new person to the team and she will be taking on some of my responsibilities,” said Ross. “I don’t know what is going to happen after the year term, but if I am to move into a full-time position with the national organization, I will have had a year to train a person in my role who gets to work beside me.”
Ross notes that along with gaining participation from uninvolved provinces, fundraising and acquiring funding will be a top priority.
“We will be applying for some government funding now that we are an official organization. I have had many conversations with Minister Ritz that have been quite positive and we are really looking forward to initiating an agreement with them to be able to develop some national programming and resources.”
AITC-Canada is currently investigating five different pro-jects with industry partners to develop new programs, and will have a few things coming down the pipe for the national effort to deliver in classrooms across Canada.