5 Questions: Being Johanne, Agriculture Enthusiast
If you’ve met Johanne Ross, Executive Director of Agriculture in the Classroom, Manitoba, you know that she is a very passionate person. And if you have never met her, you’re about to find out just how passionate she is. That’s why her bright smiling face came to mind immediately when I thought about who to profile next with our 5 Questions.
Q. 1 What are you passionate about?
I’m very passionate about agriculture. Having come from the city this may seem unusual but through my experiences with agriculture, taking my degree in agriculture and my jobs throughout my career, I realized what a wonderful, dynamic industry it is.
When the opportunity to get involved with Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) came up, it was the turning point for me. I didn’t realize until I started working with AITC-Manitoba how passionate I really was about the ag industry, and that I would gain so much reward out of sharing this passion with young people.
What makes me most passionate is working with farmers, showcasing what we produce in our country, how we contribute to feeding the world with our products, and the opportunities in the industry for young people in the future. It gets more exciting every day.
Q. 2 Who are your Partners in Agriculture?
There are so many partners both for me personally and for AITC-M. I really feel that the whole industry is part our team and in my role, I get to work with so many wonderful organizations and individuals.
I would have to say the most important voice is our farmers. I can’t say enough about the farmers I’ve worked with that take time out of their day-to-day operations to share their stories. It is so rewarding working with these dedicated farmers – both males and females- who share their passion for what they do and how they live. One of the most important things we do is tell the story of agriculture and our farmers allow us to add a face to that story.
Q. 3 How do you engage the younger generation to get involved in Agriculture?
When I started 12 yrs ago, we decided to take a different approach to what we do because we wanted to make a personal, experiential connection with students and teachers. We can give out information but we can’t make them understand unless we make that personal connection. We started AITC-M’s outreach programming by putting students and teachers up close and personal with agriculture, actually really experiencing it and getting their hands dirty. We now establish more of a personal connection with them so they can see why agriculture should be important to them and how it affects them every day.
Allowing them to put a face to farmers, and helping them understand who the people behind the farm gate are, is one of the key elements in programs such as the Made in Manitoba Breakfast. We connect them not only with farmers, but other people in industry who share what they do and why they love doing it. It allows them to put a face to the industry as a whole and then create understanding and stronger connections.
Q. 4 Who provides you with Leadership and how do you mentor others?
First, I would say I’m very lucky for all of my partners. Their support and dedication to the cause of ag awareness and education gives me great encouragement and guidance. I’m tremendously inspired by how passionate our volunteers are. It really motivates me.
Also our board is always undyingly supportive. AITC is a volunteer organization, so our board consists of directors who take time out of their careers to dedicate and commit to such a worthy cause. The board gives tremendous vision and I am proud to be led by such a dynamic and exciting group of people.
Personally, I have always tried to mentor others through encouragement, support and respect. Like the old 4H saying goes, I “learn to do by doing.” so I am a leader that jumps in with the team when needed, and I try to lead through support, respect and kindness. I like to use this simple mantra in all aspects of my life, with my family, friends, my staff and with all AITC-M’s partners.
Q. 5 Is there a special moment in your Ag career that made you proud/stands out?
There are so many. They all have to do with those moments you see a student or teacher “get it”, to really understand agriculture. When you see a life changing moment, you know you have impacted them personally and emotionally.
One I recall was from a trip years ago. We took 20 teachers out to farms for a week as part of a professional development course we used to deliver each August called the Teacher Learning Adventure. These were 20 teachers that had never set foot on a farm before; it was a life- changing trip for most. We visited a grain farmer and at one particular point, we were all standing in his beautiful canola field as he was proudly talking about this beautiful looking crop. He discussed what he hoped to get, the joy of harvesting and also the risk. He said he could lose it all at a drop of a hat if there happened to be a terrible frost. The moment that stood out to me came two days later in the trip when there actually was a terrible frost. The teachers got up that morning and immediately realized what this meant to the farmer we had visited days before. They wrote letters and contacted him because they were so concerned. That was a turning point because it made me realize they “got it”. They understood agriculture and why it was important to them, and were also able to put themselves in his shoes and were genuinely devastated for him and the loss of that canola crop.
We try to make those emotional connections because it really works. And when they later read articles in the newspaper or hear about some of the agricultural challenges that are faced by the industry they might understand and relate to it a little bit more. Our hope is to create understanding so that all consumers can make informed choices and have all the information they need to squash some of the misconceptions that swirl around our industry.
Click here to learn more about the wonderful work that Agriculture in the Classroom does.