April 12, 2007: Listen carefully to many conversations
on farming and you’ll occasionally hear assumptions
about the desirability of one farm size over another. Some
people see small farms as being better for rural communities
and environmental stewardship, with larger farms being far
less desirable. Others see larger farms as not only desirable,
but inevitable. Still others are more democratic and tolerant,
thinking there is room for everyone. One thing is for certain—there
are few people without an opinion on the matter.
At the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, our members
have been pointing out for years now that there are differences
in farms. This viewpoint has shown up regularly at our annual
provincial seminar series, particularly in our 2006 series.
Our organization’s leaders heard repeatedly last year
from members and friends that there are differences between
farms and that those differences are becoming more pronounced.
In response to these voices, the CFFO has developed a new
discussion document entitled A Place for All: Addressing the
Policy Implications of Farm Size. It’s not our organization’s
intention to pit one size of farm against another; we simply
want people to think about the subject and ask themselves
if there isn’t a better way to support farms of all
sizes. We seek to disentangle the actual size of a farm from
a host of other social, environmental and cultural factors
that affect our perceptions of farm size.
The discussion document notes that the perception of large
farms as bad, and small farms as good, is not necessarily
tied to the physical size or gross revenues of a farm operation.
Instead, there are a number of social, environmental and cultural
perceptions that have created these distinctions. For example:
- Amongst non-farming rural residents and urban motorists,
the overpowering sensory presence of feedlot and hog operations
- The potential environmental threat of one large operation
is perceived to be greater than the aggregate threat of
numerous small farms.
- Amongst farmers themselves, there is the perception of
owner-operated farms being more proper, in the traditional
sense, than investor-owned operations, regardless of size.
- Finally, a higher concentration of environmental and community
impacts in one farm is perhaps the greatest source of controversy.
The CFFO discussion document also examines Canada’s
public policy framework for agriculture and asks if government
support, alongside new rules and regulations, isn’t
tilted favourably towards the development of larger farms.
Finally, the document proposes that all sizes of farms be
included in public policy development and outlines a series
of principles that should be taken into account when developing
The CFFO invites you to download
a copy of the discussion document and to consider the
ideas it presents. We welcome and encourage your feedback
on this perennial subject of conversation. For a copy of the
2006 CFFO Seminar Series Report, click