Today I am doing something different. All my photos are at the end of this blog because I feel this is important and should be carefully digested.
What Happens if the Kings and Queens of the Furrow Disappear?
Once upon a time farms were founded and generations carried on the task of sowing the fields and milking the cows. No one ever questioned what they were going to do after graduation and many of my friends went to MacDonald Agriculture College in Quebec or Guelph in Ontario. They studied hard and resumed work on the farm when they completed their education to continue family traditions for their children.
Running a farm in today's agricultural market is now very difficult; to make a profit you have to operate on a massive scale. That has caused a lot of young people to throw up their hands and walk away from the family farming business. Agriculture college enrollment has dropped 75% and there are more people getting out of farming than going into it.
The average age of todays farmers is 55 years old and more than a quarter of all farmers, are 65 years or older. There are so many costs now to produce a crop that by the time they have dealt with the elements and other issues there is just too small a profit for the effort involved. Farming is hard work, and let’s face it there are easier ways to make a living. How do you compete with bigger or commercial farms these days? Credit problems and over the top production costs have literally taken the family out of the farm.
Some farmers have gotten creative - selling at farmer’s markets and the promotional term "buy produce locally” has helped the cause. In Lanark County, Ontario we have “EcoPerth” that promotes local farm sales in and around the County. Local Farmers Markets are promoted as well has restaurants, retailers and bakeries that all use the county’s local produce. It’s good for the environment, our food line stays secure and keeps the money in the local economy.
But when I talked to some of the younger generation at The Lanark County Plowing Match on Saturday most said they had a hard time finding a bank willing to lend them the money to improve their family’s farms. I was shocked to know that young farmers now use GPS and are involved in social networking sites to remain competitive. These are a new breed of farmers that care about the environment and now some belong to the Ontario Environmental Farm Plan. "Through the EFP local workshop process, farmers will highlight their farm's environmental strengths, identify areas of environmental concern, and set realistic action plans with time tables to improve environmental conditions. Environmental cost-share programs are available to assist in implementing projects."
So why should we care about all of this? Why should you read some boring text about farms and the lack of young farmers? Because this is the base of our countries and without secure food grown by farmers we could be in a deep mess some day. As much as I would like to believe it; supermarket produce is definitely not harvested by the Keebler Elves. It is grown by people that care about what they do and they are attempting to draw the food culture into a new direction. The 4-H Club is also doing a great job inspiring youth to stay in the business of farming. They offer Agriculture Scholarships and a lot of other programs to encourage the farmers of tomorrow.
I met a wonderful young lady named Heather Ferrier on Saturday and she was the Queen of the Furrow at the Lanark Plowing Match. I bet some of you have a grin on your face and think that it sounds pretty silly. Well not only is she Queen of the Furrow, she has a great interest in what goes on in agriculture. She speaks to groups about farming, takes agriculture classes at Guelph University and works part time jobs involved in making farming a better occupation. In just a few minutes I knew that Heather was not just another pretty face with a crown and Lanark County should be proud to have her as their representative.
A furrow is a long narrow trench in the ground made by a plow for planting seeds. Young farmers are our seeds of tomorrow and we should do nothing but encourage them. Buy local to help celebrate the people that grow our food, as they are the soul of our lands and we cannot afford to lose future generations. After all- we are what we eat!
Text and images: Linda Seccapina 2011
Lanark County Plowing Match was held at the farm of Bill Dobson and family in Smiths Falls,Ontario.
One day it's John Deere Toys.
The next day it's real life!