© Photo Courtesy of Country Heritage Park
At least once in your life, you need a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, and a preacher, but every day, three times a day, you need a farmer.
Farmers are the backbone of the agricultural system—they are the source of our food supply, countless jobs, and their practices can improve the health of our soil and water supply. Their jobs are far from easy; at the best of times, farming is difficult and even brutal. Between rising energy and food costs, declining water quality, and a growing population, farmers face many challenges within their everyday work.
More than 80 percent of Ontarians live in urban areas, all but cut off from the natural environment, leading to a lack of understanding of where the food they eat comes from—and what goes into growing it. As the next generation enters schooling, it is critical to ensure that children know the importance of farmers’ work, including how farming practices contribute to climate responsibility and sustainable living.
Country Heritage Park (CHP) is a centre of excellence for food and farming education, inspiring change within the most diverse global sector. Nestled in the shadow of the Niagara Escarpment in Milton—a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve—CHP’s 80-acre site offers unique facilities and programming about the past, present, and future of the food and farming sector. Passionate about educating students and adults regarding food literacy, arts, history, outdoor education, environmental awareness, and sustainability, CHP is on a mission to bring together community, private, and public partners to innovate, interact, and collaborate on the deliverance of events, education, and hands-on experiences.
Going beyond telling the stories of farmers, CHP shows and discusses the challenges facing farmers in ways that everyone can understand.
Through strong curriculum-based educational programs with hands-on learning opportunities, students from Kindergarten to Grade 10 can examine, brainstorm, and understand how sustainability is essential to our personal growth and local responsibility.
Sustainability, environmental protection, and awareness are fundamental to maintaining a balanced ecology. Food literacy is at the core of CHP’s activities, addressing issues like energy conservation, water preservation, food waste reduction, and much more.
Just like farmers provide more than food, CHP provides more than stories. Through their programs, summer camps, service clubs, and connections with local and regional organizations, CHP delivers a deeper understanding of the history behind farming innovation and links it to the present, showcasing the progress of farmers and food, including what a future without food would look like. Young people can discuss critical issues regarding habitats, recycling, food production and waste, and learn lessons they can take back to their classrooms.
On top of that, CHP is building a community within a community, giving back and contributing where and whenever possible. In 2017, CHP contributed more than $380,000 in give-back to communities by providing rental space to ensure their events were successful and increased that in 2018, almost doubling it to more than $660,000.
Through collaborations with organizations like Indigenous-led Grandmother’s Voice, which works to create awareness of healing through the land and proper diet regimes, and Halton’s No One Goes Hungry, which is dedicated to using food waste that would otherwise be cast-off to create meals, prepared in CHP’s Community Kitchen, CHP is making nearly 12,000 meals per month for people in the Halton region and beyond. Their impact is only building as they continue to engage with community-led organizations that seek to provide food education and security to families in need.
Cultivating the seeds of change takes time and requires getting your hands dirty—but it is making an impact.
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Country Heritage Park is a theme park to yesteryear; rooted in our farm, food, and rural lifestyle heritage, offering an 82 acre site that is an unparalleled step back through 185 years of Canadiana experiences, while reveling in the entrepreneurial spirit of today and highlighting the innovation for our future.