LETTER FROM ONTARIO
An Action Plan for a Fresh Vision for Agriculture

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

This column was adapted from one of Elbert van Donkersgoed's weekly radio chats, called Corner Post, which are aired weekly on CFCO Radio in Chatham and CKNX Radio in Wingham, Ontario. Elbert is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, which is working hard to create a more satisfying and sustainable model for farming in the province. If you'd like to receive a transcript of Elbert's Corner Post address each week, send an email to evd@christianfarmers.org with SUBSCRIBE as the message.

Do any of the issues listed in this column resonate with you, or are there other wishes you'd like to share? Send them to us now, and we'll post them on the web site later.

February 7, 2003: A number of visions for farming are driving change in North American
agriculture.

There is the global vision that emphasizes low-cost production for international markets using lots of technology, off-farm inputs and standardized management systems. There is the organic vision that emphasizes biological cycles, biodiversity, minimal off-farm inputs and ecological harmony. There is the low-input sustainable vision that emphasizes reduced chemical-based farm inputs and intensive management while maintaining the
productivity of the natural resource base.

Some farmers follow one or the other vision with all the entrepreneurial determination they can muster. Most, however, adopt or adapt slices of each of these visions for their farm businesses.

Into this mix of visions the Christian Farmers Federation has put forward a fresh vision for Ontario agriculture - a vision for moderate-scale, productive family farms throughout our countryside that take care of creation, support local community development and provide great places to live.

CFFO's vision document "Closer to the Heart" chronicles the long-term problems within Ontario agriculture, the values that CFFO members hold, the parts of Ontario agriculture that need to be maintained or strengthened, and an action plan that will enhance and enrich family farm agriculture.

It is a vision broadly rooted in quality of life, not narrowly in the
productive and market potential of Ontario's farming resources. In short, it is a vision for an integrated and multi-benefit agriculture.

CFFO's six-point vision action plan will be the focus of a series of workshops across the province this winter. I invite you to join us at one of our nineteen workshops. Help us explore the potential of the action plan.

Two of the proposed actions will be the subject of focused discussions.
1. Strengthened marketing legislation to guarantee farmers a fairer share ofthe consumer food dollar?
2. Putting a small charge on the retail sale of food to pay for the
environmental services agriculture provides?

Join us in asking: What are the barriers to getting these actions
accomplished? What opportunities do we have or can we create for achieving these actions?

We will also explore recommendations for a) focusing support on family farm agriculture; b) protecting the best farmland; c) creating effective dialogue between farmers and society and d) legislating funding for basic agricultural research.

CFFO's proposals for enhancing family farm agriculture in Ontario are bold. They are rooted in values that come from our hearts and our faith. Come and help us test the practicality of the action plan.

The series will continue through April 10 in Emo in the Rainy River District. Dates, details and registration are on the CFFO website at www.christianfarmers.org or call: (519) 837-1620.
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Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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Corner Post can be heard weekly on CFCO Radio, Chatham and CKNX Radio, Wingham, Ontario. Corner Post is archived on the website of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario: www.christianfarmers.org. To be added to the electronic distribution list of Corner Post, send email to evd@christianfarmers.org with SUBSCRIBE as the message. To remove your name, send email with UNSUBSCRIBE as the message.