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Editor’s Note: A historic year for the family farm

Tom Button

Across the country, 2020 has demonstrated once again that the family is the right management unit for Canada’s farms, in part because it is so amazingly adaptable. In fact, there’s every reason to think the family will see us through future changes too.

It’s November already, and already you can feel the calendar beginning to tick in the back of your head. Spring will come.

Of course, as we learned this year, that doesn’t mean we know exactly what 2021 will bring. But we do know this much.

The broad sweep of Canadian farms have proved amazingly adaptable in 2020. Of course there were real issues on many farms and ranches with market access and with offshore labour, among much else, but the family farm has rarely if ever shone brighter.

Read Darrel Wade’s “Resilient Farms” column in our November and upcoming issues, and add to them all the similar local examples that you know of from your own communities. I’ve no doubt you’ll end up as inspired as I have been.

Although it’s often said that farm families are notoriously bad at communication, it was their ability to get on the same page with each other and with others outside the farm, and their ability to get everyone all heading in the same direction that was the hallmark of this past year.

The conversations that we say farmers aren’t any good at did happen, admittedly not always in ways that the experts would recommend, and admittedly too, not on every farm.

But, by and large, the family came together to make decisions in the family’s best interests.

Now the question is how best to build on that success.

Over the years, Country Guide has been trying to capture the Canadian farm in the act of evolving. I’ve always felt I sit in one of the best, most privileged chairs in the country because of it.

Of course, it doesn’t make me any better than you at forecasting exactly what will come next. But there are some things that we do know.

Farms that look to find the strengths that their children and the next generation can bring to the job are better at tackling the future.

Similarly, farms where the next generation understands that they will benefit from a rigorous and probably long apprenticeship are better at facing the future too.

It’s what 2020 has shown so many farms where kids were at home longer than expected, and where parents have had a chance to see their kids make daily decisions that maybe the future isn’t something to be afraid of after all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the two generations closer together, and the winner is the farm.

There’s work ahead. It takes years to acquire the financial and business management skills to succeed. You don’t get it in a YouTube video. But as 2020 ends, I’m more optimistic than ever.

Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].

About the author


Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.



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