|If you had one wish
for farming in Ontario in 2002 what would it be?
That was the first of many challenging questions addressed
in the "Gearing Up for a Better Future" workshop
series that the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario organized
last winter. About 250 farmers participated in the 18 sessions
across the province. Almost all were able to declare a wish
as they introduced themselves at the daylong events.
We collected, organized and analyzed those wishes. Here's
a brief summary:
A small group wished for specific policies on protecting
farmland, on nutrient management and on markets. Eight percent
wanted less urban development on agricultural land, a set
of environmental rules for all of society, a nutrient management
act that farmers can handle and an end to the circle of having
to get bigger because of increasing costs.
Some participants were visionary. Twelve percent wished for
a different kind of agriculture: less government, farming
without subsidies, working together with US farmers, a united
approach on the issues, a fully integrated countryside and
agriculture. One farmer expressed the following hope: "When
farming is going well, good people should not get greedy and
Thirteen percent highlighted stewardship, sustainability
and farm management practices. They hoped to leave a heritage
for children by leaving the farm and farmland better for those
who follow. They emphasized making a living by being good
stewards, toning down the competitive mindset, and choosing
to "market more locally and putting a face on our products."
To improve farm practices they asked for interdisciplinary
activities and cooperation on technical issues.
One group looked forward to improvements for their own farms.
Fourteen percent longed for better weather, a half inch of
rain, contentment, an injury free year, less paper work and
one of the children taking over someday.
A similar-sized group wanted appreciation from the public,
government, rural people, big business, media and consumers:
"We want to be appreciated for the contribution we make
to society." Some mentioned big and small farmers respecting
each other and consumers being more interested in buying locally.
Nineteen percent focused on commodity prices and farm income.
They wished for a fair return, a level playing field, getting
away from expensive inputs, prosperity and the opportunity
to let go an off-farm job. They hoped for prices that keep
up with costs and better control over prices because "there
is no other business where you have less control over the
price of products."
Twenty percent of participants wished for strong family farms,
healthier rural communities and better opportunities for young
farmers. They wished for farmers spending more time as neighbours,
a stop in the decline in farm numbers because farmers make
good neighbours, easier opportunities for the next generation
and "a future for my son."