Learning about farming in Timmins: Agricultural society pairs up animals with families

Some children have a natural connection with animals and Elissa Wakeford is one of them.

Every week, she visits the Whissell farm in Timmins to help feed and groom the alpacas, rabbits and chickens. She said she loves all animals in general.

"They’re really sweet and some of them save people’s lives," Wakeford said.

There are other children, however, who might take longer to build a bond with farm animals. And that's why the Porcupine District Agricultural Society is hoping through its Grower Program, it can teach local families about agriculture and farming.

"Not having our fair last year and not knowing what we’re going to be doing this year, we’re looking for projects for us to participate in and to be active in the community," said Rock Whissell, a member of the agricultural society and president of the Timmins Fall Fair.

People who live in a rural zone and have adequate housing for animals can apply to take on raising a chicken, lamb or pig this summer.

"We’re asking for them to participate via social media with pictures with the kids raising the animals and I have interview questions for them about what they’ve learned through the process," said Erin Rathborne, coordinator of the Grower Program.

So far, there has been a great deal of interest, as all the lambs and pigs have been claimed, but chicks are still available.

For those who are more interested in plants, the group is in the beginning phase of establishing a new program. It recently partnered with the Timmins Charitable Gaming Association to acquire some funds.

"The 'Tap and Play room' is like a slot machine. People can just go in and sit down and play, and that money goes -- a percentage of that money goes -- to the charities in the area," said Marlene Smith, a member of the Timmins Charitable Gaming Association.

Some of the money raised will buy supplies for construction students at Timmins High and Vocation School to build gardens boxes and for Millson Foresty to grow the seedlings.

"It’s great for our students to have something to do and to be able to use the skills that they’re learning in school and apply them in the real world," said Al MacLean, principal of the high school.

"In return, we get these boxes back to give out to the community," Whissell said.

Looking towards summer, he said while the agricultural society waits for news of what will happen with the Timmins Fall Fair this year, he is getting ready for an even larger Mountjoy Farmer's Market beginning in July. He said the number of vendor tents is doubling, to showcase area foods and crafts.