With only 2% of the Canadian population actively farming, its no wonder consumers are so detached from agriculture.  For a farmer like me, this can be very discouraging.  The internet is jam packed with misinformation about how food is produced and how animals are treated.  I can’t blame consumers for being so confused, or farmers from being so darn frustrated.  In fact, just over 100 years ago, approximately 50% of Canadians were farmers.  People had a much better handle on where their food came from.  Back then, a farmer produced enough food for about 10 people.  Today, that same farmer can feed 120 people.  That’s a big responsibility!

My family started hosting farm tours when I was just a kid in public school.  I can remember many of the school kids putting up their hands when we asked them, “so do any of you live on a farm?”. Of course this was no surprise because we lived in a rural community.  As the years went on, fewer hands were raised.  It came to the point where we started to ask, “do any of you have grandparents that farm?”.  We were lucky to see a few hands go up.  Sadly, in recent tours, you are lucky to get any hands up when you ask the question, “have any of you EVER been to a farm.”! So much for my rural community.  Times have changed.

Farmers are a lucky bunch.  We get to work a home as our own boss.  We get to work along side our families and nature.  Best of all, we can take pride in helping to feed the world.  At 43 years of age, I am a “young” farmer by today’s standards even though I don’t always feel it.  Believe it or not, the average age of a farmer in Canada is approximately 54 years and only 9% of farmers are under the age of 35!  From the year I was born in 1971 until 2011, I’ve seen a 91% drop in dairy farms. We are a dying breed.

As I sit here and type, its easy for me to get depressed about all the stats, but that will do no one any good. As I see it, we all have a little farmer in us and don’t forget that farmers are consumers too. We want to feed our families with safe, nourishing food so of course we are going to produce food that’s safe and nutritious for EVERYONE!  We truly are what we eat.

I know what you must have thought when you read the title of my blog, “What me, a farmer? NO WAY!”.  Well, think again….
*Do you have a flower garden, or even just a single house plant? Do you water, prune, feed and nurture that plant? Do you have a vegetable garden? Farmers garden too, but on a much larger scale.
*Do you weed, and collect the fruits of your labour? Do you enjoy cutting, or fertilizing your lawn. Do you like visiting pick your own farms so that you can do the work yourself? We care for our crops and enjoy harvesting them just as much as you do. Some farmers make their entire living on growing crops. As you know from your own gardens, its a lot of work to grow crops and the results can vary from year to year. Weather, insects and disease can take a huge toll on crop yield and quality, but farmers are optimists.  They always hope that next years crop will be better than the last.
*Do you have a pet that you love and take to the vet for regular care? Perhaps farmers don’t always look at their livestock as pets, but we do care for them and they get regular veterinary visits to keep them happy and healthy. If we look after our animals, our animals will look after us.  I admit that I truly do love my cows.  If you got to know them, you would love them too.  They are remarkable creatures!
*Do you enjoy drives in the country? Do the smells and the sights send a pioneer spirit into your heart?  I could go on, but if you think about it, we all came from the same seed.  In our not so distant past, we were all hunters and gatherers.  Not everyone feels the same as I do about farm living, but I know many city dwellers find themselves longing for farm life.

So the next time we cross paths, think of me as a fellow consumer and I’ll think of you as a fellow farmer. Perhaps then, we can find some common ground and open some much needed dialogue.  We have a lot that we can learn from each other.