NFU Youth show­ing the kind of lead­er­ship long over­due in agri­cul­ture

The Southwest Booster - - OPINION OPINION -

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.

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