June 30, 2003: That was the first challenge in the
"Planning for Action to Save the Family Farm" workshop
series that the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario organized
last winter. About 225 members and friends of CFFO participated
in the 19 sessions across the province. What participants
appreciated about Ontario agriculture varied widely. Many
did not stop at identifying just one characteristic that they
More than a quarter of participants (28%) expressed appreciation
for the quality of farm life in Ontario. Retired farmers talked
about love of the land and old tractors, about farm life being
more than dollars, and the rural setting as a good place to
live. Milk producers highlighted the freedom and independence
to make their own decisions, and busy days filled with challenges
and choices to improve productivity of land and cows, while
having time to do other things. Beef producers talked about
the great satisfaction that comes from the flexibility of
doing - within reason -- what they wish, and about taking
pride in the variety of work. It was important to them that
farming is manageable as a part-time business that provides
a peaceful and quite place to live - a place to unwind.
Another quarter of participants (27%) appreciated the quality
of the business of farming in Ontario. Poultry producers gave
credit to the diversity of Ontario's production and the supply
management system for their optimism about the future. They
emphasized the opportunity to be independent - in contrast
to poultry producers in the US. Pork producers valued the
challenge to be the best they can be, and depicted farming
as a rewarding business that provided a good living. Grain
crop producers described farming as an adventure: "a
challenge to do my best" and "an opportunity to
build up a business." Many liked being able to farm part-time
and appreciated new opportunities in organic production. Horticultural
producers talked about a love of the land, about seeing 'my'
trees growing everywhere, and market opportunities a day's
truck ride away. Ontario was described as a land of opportunity
with fine soil, good weather, few crop failures, good infrastructure
and close to big markets.
Good-sized groups of participants talked about the benefits
of family farming (14%) and the beauty of the creation (15%).
Pork producers, retired farmers and sheep producers emphasized
the farm as a wonderful place to raise a family. Children
learn good work habits and grow into the business. Those involved
in mixed farms and horticulture talked about the beauty of
Ontario's abundant produce, the countryside and the miracle
of each spring. Above all, they appreciated God's hand in
Ten percent of participants valued the farm community and
the people involved in agriculture. Horticultural producers
talked about the generosity of the farm community, the spirit
of volunteerism and their enjoyment of the relationships they
have developed with others. The Ontario farm community was
described as proactive, progressive, cooperative, friendly
and made up of good people with diverse opinions and viewpoints.
A small group of participants (7%) tempered their appreciation
with concerns about agriculture's future. Some milk producers
cherished freedom but were concerned about losing it. They
hoped that Ontario would not become like Holland and its regulations
any time soon. They talked about the high cost of land and
quota and worried that we are losing our sense of community.
Some beef producers raised concerns about the industrialization
of agriculture, new subdivisions, huge hog barns and regulations
taking the fun out of farming. In the words of one: "Big
brother is starting to tells us what to do,"
Throughout the sessions, the level of appreciation for Ontario
agriculture was high. Those who raised concerns about the
high cost of getting into farming or the growing regulatory
burden were few and in every case they expressed approval
of the present but questioned how long the good times can
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