I’m not a farmer. I don’t pretend to be one.
As has been well-documented in this column in the past, my parents have a horse farm in Langley, B.C. It’s a quiet, rural paradise just kilometres away from the hustle and bustle of the big Lower Mainland cities.
My parents are farmers. At least the federal government’s farm rebate program says they are. Some people I know might think that 4.3 acres of land doesn’t make them farmers. But they own and board horses who run around our fields, and hopefully one day we’ll have a stakes winner.
As I have confessed before, when my family bought our horse farm 20 years ago, I wasn’t a happy camper. When I was 21, I craved the frantic pace of the city, with all that you would need nearby. What did the farm have nearby? Barns. Hay. Trees.
But as time has progressed, and I’ve grown older and wiser (or so they say), I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the rural beauty of my parents farm. And I’ve also gained more appreciation for the contributions of agriculture.
It’s not that I was ignorant of agriculture. My uncle Russ and his family have a thriving farm in the Fillmore area. They’re not only successful farmers, but they’re champions for the agriculture sector and the food that is produced in this province, and they have taken a leadership role in the ag sector.
They’re a credit to their industry.
I spent a lot of summer days and Christmas holidays at that farm just off of the grid road between Fillmore and Cedoux. There are a lot of good memories there, but I also came to realize the hard work, the early mornings and the challenges associated with have a good operation.
October is Agriculture Month in Saskatchewan. It’s a chance to reflect on the many contributions of farming to the province, and we should all take a moment to think about the theme of Our Food has a Story.
This province is blessed to have the land that it has, the crops that it’s able to grow and the producers who are growing that food.
It’s also blessed to have some outstanding organic farmers who are taking a different approach to farming, and who are growing some outstanding crops themselves.
I’m not going to wade into the debate between conventional and organic farming. Those who choose the organic route have every right to do so. Those who opt for more conventional means also deserve to be proud of what they grow.
Saskatchewan’s farmers embrace change, are on the cutting edge of technology and are taking steps to do their jobs in a more environmentally friendly fashion.
It’s unfortunate that many Saskatchewan farmers have found themselves as targets of the keyboard warriors who don’t have the first clue about how food is grown, how it should be grown, or how much agriculture means to this country.
They don’t understand the environment practices being used in modern agriculture, or the rapid changes in technology that have taken place.
Most of these critics are urban dwellers who haven’t spent a day on a farm on their lives, who don’t have any connections to the agriculture sector, and who don’t have any interest in actually talking to a farmer or doing any real research.
But hey, they read something on the Internet by a hipster food blogger whose comments fit their agenda, so it has to be true, right?
I don’t find this to be a big problem in Saskatchewan. Even lifelong residents of Regina and Saskatoon generally have a connection to farming, whether it be someone in their extended family or a good friend. There are exceptions, but most in Saskatchewan’s two large cities understand agriculture.
But talk to a 20-something in Toronto or Vancouver, walking down the street with their head buried in their phone, and you’re more likely to hear those misconceptions.
If there’s one area that farmers have been slow to adapt and react, it’s the critics. For whatever reason, the agriculture sector hasn’t always rapidly responded to the misinformed criticisms of conventional farming practices and the food that is grown in Canada.
Maybe it’s because they thought that common sense would prevail, or they thought that people wouldn’t believe everything that they read. But it’s hard to expect someone would have common sense if they own a selfie stick.
So it’s incumbent on farmers to not only work hard and embrace change and adapt environmentally and keep growing great food, but to explain to people why the food grown in Saskatchewan is the best in the world. After all, farmers aren’t going to grow food they wouldn’t want to serve their own families.
They probably won’t convince those who don’t know anything about farming, and who make up their mind because of online misinformation.
But there are a lot of open-minded people who can be reached, and who want to know the story about how great food is grown in Saskatchewan.