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Editor’s Note: Before we get to 2020

We’re talking in our shop about 2020 and, of course, about 2030 too. Probably you’re talking about it in your shop as well. On the brink of any new decade, it’s unavoidable. But this time, the future looks different by a country mile.

The reason why it looks different is amazing in its own right. In any previous decade, the focus was on what was going to hit our farms. Would prices stagnate? Would farm bankruptcies soar? Would the family farm survive?

And don’t get me wrong. There’s still no end of such questions to ask about the 2020s, not only about the weather, the markets and the trade wars that we know about, but also all the black swans that we don’t.

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Tom Button
Tom Button

Leadership columnist Kelly Dobson likes the acronym VUCA, (i.e. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) to describe the new threats.

Even so, he argues we’re entering a decade that will see farmers control their destinies in ways they’ve never had access to before. You have to like his point.

Other writers in this issue share the sense that this decade will be different because, to a greater extent than ever before, farmers are taking charge.

There’s an irony here. In past, farmers got power by forming huge commodity organizations. Now, its the cumulative impact of individual decisions that will have even bigger consequences.

Yes, threats exist and should never be downplayed, but the resiliency of today’s farms shouldn’t be downplayed either, or the power of today’s farmers to preserve and enhance their sustainability and their futures.

Not every farmer, of course. Talk to almost any producer or to any banker or farm accountant across the country and you’ll hear of farmers in their area suffering sleepless nights on overextended farms.

As we head further into the fall and winter, Country Guide will be writing about some of the toughest challenges ahead. Can mid-size farms maintain their operational health if they can’t expand? How will farms plot their way through a future where technology is likely to require wholesale periodic changes in the way they farm?

As always, I’m convinced that we’ll look back on the stories in our October issue of Country Guide and see that directions are beginning to emerge. Read Ryan Riese’s column on RBC’s Farmer 4.0 report, and Brenda Schoepp’s study of Canada’s trailblazing women farmers.

Read Merle Good’s fresh insights into succession agreement, and Darrell Wade’s remarkable and thought-provoking introduction to the Hunter family and its challenges.

Also read David Kohl’s recommendations for building a farm that will survive the shocks ahead. And don’t overlook our story on the Toews family in Manitoba.

Clearly, agriculture has the raw material to survive.

This is the kind of writing you will see in I this winter. Are we getting it right? Do let me know at [email protected].

About the author


Tom Button

Tom Button is editor of Country Guide magazine.



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