Monthly Archives: November 2007

Agricultural Societies Should Help with Public Awareness

The federal government has agreed to give $1.3 million dollars to educate the public about agriculture’s contributions. As a farmer, I suppose that I should be thanking the government for this generous gift but I’m somewhat confused. Having been very actively involved with the Grand River Agricultural Society (formerly the Woolwich Agricultural Society), I am well aware of their objectives – especially the ones that involve educating others about agriculture. And I would think that the agricultural societies should be able to assist in this area – especially the ones that have lots of slot machine revenue, no property taxes (a benefit to agricultural societies) and no income taxes (another benefit to agricultural societies). I know the financial information from Grand River Agricultural Society and know that Western Fair is also governed by an agricultural society. Between the two societies they have revenue from nearly 1000 – yes, I said 1000 slot machines.

 

Agricultural society’s mandates are to educate about agriculture. Maybe it’s time to see that agricultural societies did a better job of fulfilling their mandate and earned the privileges that go with the responsibilities. Agriculture members should be insisting on it.

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The Millennial Generation

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I saw a segment on last week’s edition of Sixty Minutes about the ‘Millennial Generation’. I have two children that are members of this group (defined as individuals born after 1984), but fortunately my kids don’t have the characteristics of this generalized group. I find it odd that when I was making the decision to home-school these same two children, most of the reasons that I wanted to home-school was because I didn’t want my kids to turn out like the members of the ‘Millennial Generation’. I had no idea at the time that someday these characteristics would be attributed to the current generation of young people.

My two kids tell me that they can’t believe how unprepared their Millennial Generation classmates are for the real world. My daughter said that she couldn’t understand why their orientation was a week long. At the end of the second day, she said “How many ‘get-to-know-you’ games do we have to play – let’s get on with classes!” She didn’t need to attend the orientation session that showed students how to run a washing machine or a dryer either.

I have always said that the education system is exactly what parents want. It’s a quasi-daycare center that makes their children feel good about themselves. Bill Gates warned parents and post-secondary institutions that by continuing down this path of non-justified rewarding will produce individuals who are ‘sissy’ and can’t take criticism of any kind. Essentially he stated that the kids will not grow up in the real world and they won’t be ready when they graduate because they won’t be able to cope. I guess he was right.

I can hardly wait to say “I told you so” to all those nay-sayers that criticized me for my home-schooling decision. My two children have flown the nest, are paying for their own university education (through wages that they earned themselves) and fighting their own battles because I have given them the tools to do so. They also know how to separate their white clothes from the darks. Imagine that!

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Maybe there are too many farmers

photo-_7.jpgAs a result of being a student in the University of Guelph’s Online Agricultural Communications Program, I am a participant in many online discussions with classmates, instructors and guest instructors who are experts in their field. Some of the experts are self-proclaimed ‘city slickers’. I find it fascinating to ‘listen’ to them and read their perspectives of agriculture. During one of the assignment chats, I read all of my classmates views about the recent news of the poor financial positions of non-supply managed farmers. I started applying the ‘city slicker’ mentality to their comments and I began to wonder whether or not there are too many farmers in Canada. In other industries, if there isn’t enough money to cover the costs of the business (or to make a living for the individual), the business goes broke or the individual exits their current field and finds a new job. Is that what’s happening to farmers?

Being married to a farmer, I know the passion that he brings to the career. I have often teased him that it wouldn’t matter whether he made a profit, farming or not. Since he loves it he’s going to farm anyway – as long as he can afford it! Is that a common position for other passionate farmers?

Thanks to the continuing advances in technology, farming has changed drastically. Oh sure, farmers still plant, fertilize, harvest, etc. but the yields from the same acreage have increased tremendously. Thanks to hybrid seeds and other seed technology, higher producing crops can be grown on the same or less acreage.

Equipment keeps getting bigger too so that it takes much less time to plant, fertilize and harvest when using a 24-row planter instead of the 6-row planter. And how many farmers can continue to afford to buy and maintain these 24-row planters? Doesn’t it make sense to have fewer farmers that have the equipment and then the other landowners simply hire the equipment owner to do the planting, fertilizing and harvesting? Minimum or no-till types of tillages also reduce the amount of input time and costs that farmers incur.

Maybe I’m simply thinking too much like a city slicker. I know that I have often thought that there are too many lawyers in Canada but they all seem to be making a living so their services are obviously needed by someone. The theory of supply and demand is working.

Can the same be said for farmers? If there are farmers that can’t make a living without some kind of subsidy, maybe all of them aren’t needed. Are consumers/users of the farmers’ products having their demands met while many farmers still complain that they can’t make a living? Maybe there isn’t a need for all the farmers. Sometimes economics isn’t pretty – especially if you’re a passionate farmer.

If there are fewer farmers (thereby reducing the supply of the product), the price of the product should go up – hopefully enough that the fewer farmers still in the business can make a living – without a subsidy. Whether it’s supply and demand or other contributing factors, the economics of farming are forcing some farmers out of business. Hopefully the ones that remain continue to have a passion for it while at the same time, make a fair living.

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