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Leadership succession (Top 40): From the Editor

Debunking myths of agriculture


November 28, 2014
By Dave Harrison

Nov. 28, 2014, Simcoe, Ont. — Farmers should be quite relieved with the findings in the recent The State of Canadian Agriculture Survey.

The report was done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and released in October of this year. It debunks a number of false impressions society has about farming in Canada, including that:

  • Agriculture is not innovative and modern.
  • The agriculture sector is shrinking.
  • Farming is unsustainable and potentially environmentally harmful.
  • Farming is moving away from family businesses towards corporate operations.

The fact that too many Canadians don’t understand agriculture is alarming, especially since political decision-makers are often swayed by public opinion.

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Even if those opinions are erroneous. And that could hurt farming. Think for a minute of the possible pressures on off-shore labour programs if the true needs of the program aren’t understood by politicians and policy-makers.

“Canadians have a variety of misconceptions about farming in Canada and now a new CFIB survey conducted among Canadian farmers sets the story straight,” notes the CFIB report. “CFIB’s The State of Canadian Agriculture Survey shows that agriculture is innovative and growing, farmers take care of the environment, and the predominant succession plan for primary producers is to pass the farm on to a family member.”

The Canadian greenhouse sector, for its part, is clear proof of the report’s conclusions.

Regarding Misconception #1, greenhouse growers are enthusiastic adopters of new technologies and systems. Greenhouse systems are at the forefront of urban agriculture and far north food production projects, the new frontiers of agriculture.

As for Misconception #2, the greenhouse sector continues to add acreage each year. And thanks to new technologies and varieties, yields continue to grow and new markets at home and abroad are being developed or expanded.

With Misconception #3, greenhouse growers set the standard for resource/land stewardship in Canada. Closed irrigation systems are quite common, rainwater collection systems are popular, and cutting-edge water treatment systems are widely in place. The use of biocontrols continues to grow.

Misconception #4 clearly doesn’t apply to the greenhouse sector. Family farms are the norm, with two generations – sometimes three – working together under glass or poly.

The key takeaway message from the CFIB survey is that farmers in Canada haven’t done a good job in letting their urban neighbours and customers know how vibrant the industry is in Canada. The “Buy Local” movement depends on that awareness for its success.

The State of Canadian Agriculture Survey is a good read, but also a wake-up call for the sector. We have to do a better job in promoting ourselves, to open new markets and to ensure we’re visible to policy makers.


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