Uh oh!

Photo: James Tse

According to a study by Ketchum that was reported in the February issue of Canadian Grocer magazine, 78% of Canadians would like to get their food from local farms or companies by 2020.  Regrettably, this isn’t likely since as Rebecca LeHuep, executive director of the  Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance pointed out in the September issue of that same magazine, “by 2012, more than 60% of farmers and farm managers will be retiring. The average age of a farmer is about 57 and he doesn’t have a succession plan for his farm.” In an email correspondence Rebecca shares another grim stat that between 1991 and 2001 Ontario lost 135 of its farmers.

Beyond the fact that these stats reveal a disappointing gap between Canadian consumer aspirations and the reality of farming situation, LeHeup’s comments point out that we may be en route to becoming a society almost solely dependent on other countries for food.

Would you ever consider being a farmer?  Or, if you are a farmer, is it a career choice you’d make again?

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17 Responses to Uh oh!

  1. Daniel says:

    Thought-provoking. It just goes to show that industries move in cycles. A hundred years ago in North America, 90% of all jobs were ag-related. Today, something like 5% of all jobs are ag-related and fewer than 2-3% of the labor forces plays a direct role in farming. In many respects it was one of the wonders of the flexibility of the North American labor market that we were able to make such an enormous secular shift in a relatively short time.

    I have a feeling if the demand is really there from consumers for local foods, then there will be attractive oppportunities to attract people back into this industry.

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  2. Uh-Oh indeed!That is a very sobering scenario. My own local CSA has been looking for a buyer for a couple years now. In a mad moment, I briefly considered it, but then quickly realised what a challenge running a farm would be, even one that’s already successful.

    My hat really goes off to all the farmers out there.

    • danamccauley says:

      Mine, too! I come from parents who both grew up on farms. Of my mother’s siblings (7 in total) no one went into farming. On my dad’s side the ratio was about 50% (4 of 8) but two of those farmers raised show horses so I don’t think they really count.

  3. matt mark says:

    Who would have thought that a city born guy from Toronto would be interested in farming? I think once we got into wine and food and making everything from scratch, it’s a natural? progression to want to grow your own vines, cattle & crops.

    In terms of compensation, i’m not sure to what degree consumers are willing to pay even more for local, etc. Isn’t it already an expensive alternative to buy local vs imports? Because of my lack of understanding of the industry, I have to ask – What’s the compensation issue at hand?

    wow – this is the most i’ve typed in a while, because of twitter =)

    Matt

  4. Interesting and scary. I think as organic, local and artisan food becomes mainstream the small farms might do well and even become a choice of upcoming generations. I know that CSAs are growing, which might be the wave of the future. Pay your money up front and give the farmer the funds to grow for the season.

    Or am I being hopelessly naive?

    • If you are, I’m being hopeless naive along with you. Maybe us naive types will gain critical mass…

    • matt mark says:

      CSAs are an interesting idea, although I don’t know if it can sustain the large masses?

      I think I’ll have to “subscribe” for a season and see what it’s like to have a clue about it..

  5. Oof! What would Normand Laprise (Toque!’s chef) do if there weren’t any more farmers? He’s supplied his kitchen with products form 40 different farmers. And where will I eat if I can’t go to Toqué!? Look this video to see how using local products is essential to this chef: http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/Blogs/Epicurean-Life/Farm-fresh-straight-to-your-table-at-Toqué

  6. I dream about having a farm, but I fully admit that I am too lazy to do the work.

    There is a wonderful farmer that we buy from – a young guy in his early twenties. He is so committed and he does a wonderful job.

  7. I was searching through Google doing research for a blog when I came across this article and I found it very informative and interesting even though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for the info and the enjoyable read. Thanks xx

    Suzanne @ Cake in a Box

  8. Steve says:

    Interesting article. It’s disappointing to hear the stats that so many people are leaving farming. I think it’s important to get young people
    into farming so these important skills can be passed over to the next generation.

  9. good post thanks 4 sharing with us this post

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