let's talk farm animals

Giving Thanks

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

 

On this Thanksgiving weekend I was surrounded by my children, my family, good and plentiful food and a warm home. I was reflecting on all of the beautiful parts of my life that I am thankful for and felt truly blessed by my fortune to live in Canada and yes, even my good fortune to live in Saskatchewan.

In 1931 one in three people lived on a farm. Today's it's one in 46

In 1931 one in three people lived on a farm. Today’s it’s one in 46

I thought back to a few days ago when I participated in a wonderful event called AgEXperience. School children from in and around Saskatoon were able to experience all different types of agriculture and learn about how and why food is produced. It was incredible - the kids were engaged, the presenters were dynamic, and I saw several teachers and parent helpers raise their eyebrows in surprise with tidbits of info they perhaps didn’t know. I was struck though by one consistent response from all of the children to whom I asked this question: what proportion of people in Canada grow food or “farm” - 2%, 0%, or 50%. Without fail they all answered 50%. I thought that was a fascinating response. It’s now a well known fact in the ag community that only a little more than 2% of the population actually produce the food that our society consumes. And to be honest I’m not sure what it says that these kids (and teachers) believed it to be so much higher. It is perhaps an indication of the affluence of our society that so few people understand where our food comes from. And that so few provide food for so many.

So why only 2%? Productivity is improving - we are using fewer resources to produce more (our grandparents could produce enough food for just 10 people while today’s farmers can now produce enough for over 120). Farm size is increasing - the average Canadian farm grew by eight percent from 2002 to 2006. And we now have more productive land in that we can grow crops on land that we couldn’t use previously because of better tools and technologies.

Maybe the answer is that farming and the farm lifestyle just isn’t for everyone.  Even though agriculture represents more than 40$ billion in revenue annually, Canadian farmers are essentially small business owners (roughly 66% have gross sales of 100,000$ or less). And many still have off farm incomes to help maintain that family’s reasonable quality of life (the farm income cannot do that on its own). It’s stressful. It’s risky. It’s dependent on a multitude of factors outside of ones control. Farmers are required to often work every day, sometimes longer than sun up to sun down. And not only that, margins are surprisingly thin - in 2009 for every dollar earned in gross sales, Canadian farmers paid out roughly 92 cents in operating expenses.  Perhaps the question shouldn’t be why do only 2% farm but why would anyone farm at all?

So am I thankful this weekend?  Most certainly. And as we sit down to eat perhaps we should also take a moment to send a silent thank you to the people who made the choice to take on the challenge of making sure we have food on our tables.

Would you like to know more about agriculture in Canada? Go to FACS.sk.ca and read the “Real Dirt on Farming II”.

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Canada,Farm life,Uncategorized
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