Editor’s Note: The price of farm innovation

Among the emails that flow into my in-box, I can always expect to hear from farmers who are concerned about our farms becoming too different from one another, to the danger of all

Tom Button

Their concerns are valid. It is getting more and more difficult to frame national policies that are supported across the farm sector.

Over the decade that I’ve been at Country Guide, we’ve made a stab two or three times at doing a story on whether there is such a thing as a Canadian farmer. Or is there only, at best, a western Canadian farmer and then, quite separately, an eastern Canadian one too.

Or, to put it another way, can we differentiate Canadian farmers from, say, American farmers, or Brazilian or European farmers? Are there traits that bind us together despite our regional differences in the same way that you might, for instance, argue that health care and our distinctive approach to our federal model of government tie us together despite the huge differences in our economies across the country?

Perhaps it’s time for our writers to tackle the question again, even if we don’t end up saying anything very definitive about it, because at the very least it might help correct some of the misconceptions that we tend to repeat too quickly across the country, like that the West is all export, while the East is all domestic, or that the West is all open market, while the East is all supply managed.

Let me know what you think. Is there such a thing as a Canadian farmer? It’s still mid-winter, so you’ve got time to email.

But let’s return to the main question about whether we’re too diverse for our own good. No region is perfectly uniform, and neither is any one sector. We all know that.

I also want to note how little we know about other sectors compared to how our parents at least knew the fundamentals of poultry, pigs, dairy, crops and more. There are lots of reasons, of course, but it’s worth noting all the same.

But I think the point that farmers are making when they ask about our diversity has more to do with what today’s business focus is doing to our sense that we’re all in this together.

We’re all still neighbours, of course, and there has been an amazing growth in partnerships and in multi-generational farms, but there’s no denying that the inward focus has intensified too.

But has it really intensified at the expense of networking and sharing? I’m not convinced. Instead, my eyes tell me we have stretched our connections, not severed them.

Look at the topics we pursue in our February 18, 2020 issue, like peer groups, or read the trailblazing story of Shelley Spruit and how her strategic program of links with other farms across the world, and also with researchers and consumers, can carry a farm forward.

And this is true too. Country Guide exists only because the farmers we talk to will share their thinking on the most important decisions they face.

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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