Six essential characteristics of a better future 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.

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NOVEMBER 15, 2002: "Farmers are respected" and "consumers are confident" are the top two characteristics essential to a better future for agriculture, according to participants in CFFO's winter workshop series on "Gearing Up for a Better Future." About 250 members and friends of the Christian Farmers Federation participated in the 18 sessions across the province.

A major exercise during the workshop was the evaluation of 18 characteristics of a desirable future that have emerged from CFFO discussions. Participants were asked to evaluate each characteristic from two perspectives: their importance for a desirable future for farming in Ontario, and their importance for a desirable future for their farm and their family.

All 18 characteristics were rated as very important or somewhat important to a desirable future for farming in Ontario by at least 75% of the participants. From the point of view of their own farms and their own families all of the characteristics also rated, but the variation wasgreater.

The overall results were noteworthy; six characteristics received the highest ratings in both evaluations. The order of the top six varied, but from the combined perspective of farming as a whole and what works for farmers and their families, the following are the six most important characteristics for which farming in Ontario should strive.

  1. Farmers are respected and trusted for quality food while choosing management practices that take care of the environment and countryside.
  2. Consumers are confident of safe, nutritious, and abundant food.
  3. Family-based farm businesses thrive and are the dominant farm business structure.
  4. The farm family makes the management decisions on the farm.
  5. Farmers are confident of satisfactory economic returns, public appreciation and a challenging occupation.
  6. Consumers are confident that antibiotics and pesticides are minimized, animal welfare is respected, energy is conserved and organic resources are recycled.

With these characteristics in mind, CFFO has drafted a vision for
agriculture. A seminar on the findings from the workshop series on "Gearing Up for a Better Future" and on the vision document will be part of CFFO's 2002 convention: "Paths to Success - Renewing Family Farm Agriculture."

The keynote address will be delivered by Fred Kirschenmann, Director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University.

The event runs from Thursday, November 28 at 1 p.m. to Friday November 29 at 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Cambridge.

There's always room at the CFFO convention for more members and friends. Come for one session or the whole spread. There is a registration fee for most sessions so please pre-register--call the CFFO office at (519) 837-1620. Or visit our website at www.christianfarmers.org and use email.