Letter to the Editor

Photo by Rob Alexander

Hello! Thanks to a Google alert, I found this recent article and felt compelled to respond. 

As an apple grower working on one of the picturesque farms you describe, I would like to weigh in on the comments you’ve made. The title of this article suggests there is something nefarious going on in agriculture. You’ve rightfully pointed out that many large farms in Canada are consolidating, that there are fewer farmers actually working the land, and that farmers are more business-oriented than ever, looking for ways to streamline their operations to become more cost-effective and sustainable. I fail to see how any of these points suggest that farmers are anything less than savvy businesspeople looking to save their livelihood by responding to market forces.

Suggesting that farmers have to quit farming because they can’t make ends meet is not wholly true. Yes, some farms can no longer make the economics of the business work because we operate in an increasingly globalized sector. However, many farms have found ways to be nimble, adjusting their business plans to capitalize on the opportunities presented by this rapidly evolving global economy. Canada has become a country of expert farmers over the last several centuries. Now our challenge is to move beyond producing top-quality ingredients and become better at producing and marketing products that add value to these crops, a task that I believe the agriculture industry is capable of completing.

In terms of a lifestyle, the idyllic “ma and pa” farm has become less and less common, but the community values that these operations espouse are not being lost; things are simply changing. Thankfully, technology and growing techniques have evolved to allow more people the freedom to choose their career rather than accept that they have to remain on the family farm. I do agree that we are facing a crisis of not having enough young farmers in Canada willing to step up and grow the food our country (and the world) needs, but that is not the point of your article. Equally concerning is the fact that fewer consumers have any direct ties to or knowledge of primary agriculture and thus, the value placed on agriculture by society is slowly eroding. But again, this is not a point made in your article.

I myself am a young farmer, drawn to the profession by many of the tranquil images you describe. I’m happy to report that they are true! Working on a farm is everything I thought it would be and more, and I happen to be someone who left a promising career in marketing to become a producer of food. There’s an empty desk at my old firm if someone wants an office gig.

As in all industries, there are some bad actors. However, your article does not point to any farms or farmers that are bad actors. Farms that use questionable practices or do irreversible damage to the land they farm should catch up with science and change how they operate. Thankfully, most farmers care deeply about what they do, respect the land and the animals they work with, and are willing to learn new ways to improve their operations.

So please continue to go out to visit farms! Support local growers who work hard to produce top quality food and go the extra mile to allow the public onto their property. Ask questions, be curious, and do your research. Suggesting that large industrial farms are inherently “bad” and that pick-your-own farms are hiding dark and troubling secrets is ill-informed, irresponsible, and misguided. I would be happy to discuss further or answer any questions you may have, but I felt the need to set the record straight on this one.

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