Agri­cul­ture fed­er­a­tion marks 75th an­niver­sary

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - COMMUNITY/FEATURES - This ar­ti­cle was from the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries. For com­ments and sug­ges­tions, email wemack­in­

When a group of farm lead­ers met in Char­lot­te­town in 1941 to dis­cuss form­ing a sin­gle or­ga­ni­za­tion to rep­re­sent the var­i­ous com­mod­ity groups, they could be for­given if they failed to ap­pre­ci­ate the legacy they would cre­ate.

This year, as the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture cel­e­brates its 75th an­niver­sary, mem­bers have good rea­son to cel­e­brate that legacy.

The agri­cul­ture in­dus­try in Prince Ed­ward Is­land in 1941 was vastly dif­fer­ent than it is to­day. There were more than 10,000 farms, com­pared to less than 1,400 to­day. They were mixed farms, grow­ing a com­bi­na­tion of crops and live­stock, with an av­er­age size of 107 acres. More land was un­der pro­duc­tion than at present.

The farm pop­u­la­tion ac­counted for close to 50 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. Close to 80 per­cent of all Is­lan­ders lived in ru­ral ar­eas. The use of trac­tors and other heavy equip­ment was just be­gin­ning. The use of ar­ti­fi­cial fer­til­iz­ers and chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides was rare.

The founders of the Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture were keenly aware of the chal­lenges fac­ing the in­dus­try: de­clin­ing mar­gins, in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion and the grow­ing num­bers of peo­ple who were aban­don­ing their farms. There was an­other, more com­plex chal­lenge in 1941. Canada was at war, and there was a ma­jor ex­o­dus of farm labour to the mil­i­tary. Farm lead­ers and of­fi­cials worked to ad­dress the se­vere labour short­age, en­cour­ag­ing women and chil­dren to help out on the farm. There were or­ga­nized ef­forts to re­cruit non­farm peo­ple as labour­ers. Ap­par­ently there was some suc­cess. As the an­nual re­port of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture for that year said, “Work of the Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture in re­spect to farm labour and or­ga­ni­za­tions has been out­stand­ing.”

Fol­low­ing the war, the Fed­er­a­tion con­tin­ued to grow. In 1948, it ap­pointed Leo McIsaac ( father of the cur­rent min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture), as its first full-time sec­re­tary. Dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, the fed­er­a­tion grew to 5,000 fam­ily farms.

To­day, the Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture is the largest gen­eral agri­cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion in Prince Ed­ward Is­land, with a mem­ber­ship of more than 80 per­cent of all reg­is­tered pro­duc­ers. The board is com­prised of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of the com­mod­ity and agri­cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions in the prov­ince. It tack­les pol­icy is­sues and ad­vo­cates on be­half of the needs and in­ter­ests of the in­dus­try, and lob­bies for leg­isla­tive and reg­u­la­tory changes.

In ad­di­tion, it de­vel­ops and de­liv­ers pro­grams and ser­vices to its mem­bers, in­clud­ing farm safety, the ad­vance pay­ments pro­gram, in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment and the En­vi­ron­men­tal Farm Plan pro­gram. Af­ter 75 years, the Fed­er­a­tion con­tin­ues to ful­fil the vi­sion of its founders: to pro­vide a united voice for Is­land farm­ers. Its 75th an­nual meet­ing takes place on Jan. 29.

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