Several years ago, during college, I wrote a feature article for a class assignment on young farmers being a rare breed in Canada. This week I was reminded of that award-winning article (yes, I won a journalism award for it) when I read Christie Young’s comments at a recent ag event. Young, the executive director of FarmSmart, says 75 per cent of Canadian farmers will be retired in 10 years. In other words, there are lots of older farmers and fewer younger ones. So things haven’t changed much since I wrote my article a number of years ago.
Yes, 75 per cent seems like a very high number of farmers exiting the business in a relatively short period of time (10 years) but should we be concerned about it? I’m not. I think there are lots of young farmers eager to take over the reins. The young farmers I know and meet are excited for the future of this industry. Yes, they may not be taking the same road their fathers and grandfathers did, they’re carving their own path, and that’s OK. I think some people are more concerned about the numbers than anything else. They’re afraid that the available land will be swallowed up by a small number of young farmers and therefore the number of farmers will decrease. But does the number of farmers really matter? I think a farm profitability is more important.
Young goes on to blame the government for not helping more young farmers get into the industry. Do you think the government should be doing more in this area? I think the government already does quite a bit to help young farmers. Farm Credit Canada’s young farmer loans is an example. And this responsibility should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the government anyway. The ag industry and individual producers play a role as well. The best direction for the future of Canadian agriculture is going to come from the farming community.
I don’t think we need to be concerned about large numbers of retiring farmers. There will always be family farmers to grow our food. The demographics may be changing but the end result remains the same.
What do you think? Please take some time to share your thoughts below. I love reading your comments.