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
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 stand
- The potential environmental threat of one large operation is
perceived to be greater than the aggregate threat of numerous
- 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 public policy.
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