NFU Youth showing the kind of leadership long overdue in agriculture
This year’s Annual Convention of the National Farmers Union was a resounding success. The attendance was one of the highest in recent memory and certainly the largest I personally have witnessed. The attendance both during the convention, but certainly during the public event on the Thursday evening was so large hotel staff needed to find more and more chairs, filling the hall to near bursting.
There were many highlights to this year’s convention including the election of new National President Terry Boehm of Allan, Saskatchewan and National Women’s President Joan Brady from Dashwood, Ontario, along with National Youth President Kalissa Regier of Laird, Saskatchewan. Ontario contributed two Vice Presidents’ positions with the election of First Vice President Dave Lewington of Lavigne and Second Vice President Don Mills of Granton. Also elected were Kathleen Charpentier of Castor, Alberta as the NFU Women’s Vice-President and Cammie Harbottle of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia as NFU Youth Vice-President.
There were many highlights to this 40th annual convention, including some reflecting on and honouring our founders; but, for me the real highlight was the launch, by NFU Youth, of the Campaign for New Farmers. Their energy, drive and passion was evident during the launch ceremony and they demonstrated conclusively why the NFU is quickly re-establishing itself and becoming a leading voice on the future of our food system across the country.
The National Farmers Union Youth Campaign for New Farmers is a broad-based, national campaign designed to create awareness around the alarming decrease in Canada’s farm population, particularly those under the age of 35; and, the consequences this decrease has on all aspects of society. Its structure includes three areas: · Policy analysis and development; · Partnership building and communications, and; · Educational Programming. The sad reality is that the National Farmers Union Youth Campaign for New Farmers is badly needed. Government, and frankly farm organizations, have done a terrible job of considering where new farmers will come from and how they will find the tools they need to ensure Canada’s food system is viable and geared towards the long-term needs of farm families, our communities and this country. Let’s not kid ourselves – the short term priority mindset is all too prevalent in government and elsewhere and there is an abysmal record of failure.
Statistics Canada figures reveal that between 1991 and 2006, Canada lost over 60 per cent of its farmers under the age of 35. Too many Canadians are still unaware of the political and social barriers facing our farmers today. Barriers like access to capital, the social stigma of doing a job like farming when you could be doing something ‘important’ like being a lawyer, and the high cost of entrance. Every family farm lost in Canada represents generations of lost knowledge that cannot be replaced with new technology. Farming needs to be a dignified and economically viable career choice for young Canadians. You can find out more at www.nfu.ca/youth.
Grant Robertson is the senior elected official with the National Farmers Union-Ontario. As Ontario Coordinator Robertson is also a National Board Member of the NFU. Grant and his family farm near Paisley, Ont.