A CAN Do Approach

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Janet Braun, Ray and Marilyn Sullivan MACA Ambassador

Fall is my favorite time of year. The horseback riding trails in Northeast Ohio are set in old growth deciduous, and even as colors explode towards the warmer shades of the spectrum, their bursts are short-lived, so we marvel at their beauty before the trees lose all their leaves and modesty in their seasonal transition. This is four season country, and even though the forests can’t tell you the day or month, they never lie about the season.

Fall is also kids and CAN time. The Mid America CropLife Association’s (MACA) CropLife Ambassador Network (CAN) mounts two significant annual outreach efforts. The fall push puts volunteers in front of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders to talk about ag and food abundance. Most kids already know where food comes from — they grew up riding in grocery carts — but CAN volunteers are often the first to tell agriculture’s story and the first to instill in young minds a link between the earth and Happy Meals.

Fortunately for MACA and CAN, we have Janet Braun — a coordinator with grade school program development skills and the ability to create and manage an expanding 400-teacher ne

twork of teachers — willing to host in-classroom volunteers. Under Janet’s leadership, volunteers told agriculture’s story to over 6,000 children in 107 schools in 2006-07, and CAN is on course to surpass these figures for 2007-08. For her efforts, Janet was recognized at this year’s CropLife America annual meeting as one of three Agriculture Ambassador Award winners.

But there’s more to the story. Janet finds the classrooms and develops presentations, but the fun belongs to an army of 150 ready and willing volunteers (100 in MACA’s 13-state region alone). Volunteers quickly discover kids at CAN’s targeted grade levels are open-minded to the farming activities necessary to reduce crop losses due to bugs, disease, and weeds. Impressions left by volunteers are stored away to counterbalance the inevitable exposure to anti-pesticide and anti-fertilizer messages.

Credit is due to all companies allowing employees to volunteer on behalf of our industry, but particularly noteworthy are the commitments to CAN displayed by Helena Chemical. Under President Mike McCarty’s leadership, Helena’s field employees are asked to participate in outreach activities as an integral part of their job descriptions. Currently, 24 Helena “draftees” have discovered the same personal fulfillment as other classroom volunteers, and Janet never has issues with re-enlistments.

Other MACA members’ employees helping educate school children to agriculture’s benefits and abundance include Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and Bayer. As an organization, MACA is ever appreciative for any and all CAN participants.

For readers interested in volunteering for future classroom opportunities, please visit www.ambassador.maca.org to learn more.

Our industry helps put food on the table — let’s help feed minds as well.

Strohmaier is Group Publisher for the CropLife and Cotton Media Groups, Meister Media Worldwide.

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