Farmers have been faced with some tough situations in recent years as they adapt their farming practices to new technologies, regulations and trade situations, transition family farm management responsibilities, and cope with increasingly stressful situations. We’ve been tracking these trending issues and predict 2020 to be the year when Canada’s agricultural community meets these uncomfortable situations head-on.
Reducing plastics on the farm – Farmers have long dubbed themselves as the original stewards of the land, but they know everyone has room for improvement. Leading the way is Cleanfarms, a voluntary stewardship program that collects plastics commonly used on farms. Thanks to the program, more than 126 million plastic jugs have been recycled into new products instead of being disposed in landfills over the past three decades. Last year, Cleanfarms challenged Canadian farmers to recycle 100% of their farm-used plastic containers, gaining awareness and momentum that sets 2020 to be the year farmers decrease their single-use plastics on and ramp up their recycling programs the farm.
Taking action on mental health – Farmers are traditionally characterized as stoic, strong and silent on matters of mental health. But that’s changing. Mental health is part of all of us, and the agricultural community is speaking up, reaching out and breaking down barriers on this all-important issue. More farmers are talking about mental health, they are reaching out to each other, asking for and offering help and taking this health concern public. To kick off the new year, The Do More Agriculture Foundation, a not-for-profit championing mental health in agriculture across Canada, launched its second awareness campaign called ‘It Starts With Me.’ This campaign highlights that changing the narrative around mental health starts with each of us personally and 2020 looks like it’s going to be the year when Canadian farmers cut the stigma and change the conversations around mental health.
Safety comes first – Every job is different on the farm and accidents do happen. From operating large equipment to working with animals and battling Mother Nature, working safely on a farm can be challenging. Farmers, their families and employees are always striving for safe workplaces, improving working conditions and training employees. Safety hazards of working with grain (one of Canada’s top export commodities) is a growing trend in farm safety and this year more farmers, farm employees and fire rescue personnel will be participating in prevention education, rescue training and on-site workplace training with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.
Improving farm practices – Technology has shaped farming practices to the innovative, progressive industry that Canadian agriculture is known for today. Ongoing research and new technologies are evolving farm management practices of crop rotations, soil health improvement, managing manure and nutrients, and improving sustainable use of herbicides. These are just a few of the areas farmers will be honing in on this year to improve the sustainability and management of their farms – for 2020 and decades to come.
Grooming the next farm owner – Ninety-eight per cent of Canadian farms are still family owned. And most of them plan to keep it in the family. But, according to the 2016 Census, Stats Canada reported only eight per cent of Canadian farms reported having a written succession plan. While that number is alarming, we know the generational transition of management on farms is already happening. Younger generations have entered, and will continue to enter, family farm businesses and the older generation is sharing management responsibilities. This year we’ll see more young farmers taking the reins to make input, cropping and animal management decisions. And this new decade will see those responsibilities grow to include large machinery purchases and financial management decisions as the older generation mentors their successors. In the meantime, more formal written succession plans will be developed to ensure a smooth transition of family farms in Canada. For a more complete picture of the changing demographic of Canadian farm operators click here.
Food waste is definitely a ‘thing’ – a recent U.N. study found that the average Canadian wastes 79 kilograms of food per year. And as Jo-Ann notes in her May article, we may be wasting 13.5% more food at home since the start of the pandemic. A recent article by Reynold Bergen in Country Guide notes … Read More
As Will Rogers famously said, “The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” Who else would throw millions of dollars of seed, fertilizer, and other inputs onto the ground, only to stand back and pray for rain? This coming season will test farmers’ optimism like never before. In addition … Read More
This originally appeared in Agri-Marketing Magazine, May-June 2020. By Len Kahn I remember sitting in the office of my first client circa 1996, the country manager of a multinational animal health company. We were discussing our contract, and he popped up with, “Here’s the bottom line – if I make my bonus, you get to … Read More