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Younger Farmers Changing the Face of Agriculture: A Shift Towards Sustainability and Innovation

Younger farmers
📸 | Younger Farmers Changing the Face of Agriculture: A Shift Towards Sustainability and Innovation | Image by Văn Long Bùi, (Pixabay)

Younger Farmers Changing the Face of Agriculture: A Shift Towards Sustainability and Innovation


In Brief:

  • Generational Shift in Agriculture:
    • A silent revolution is underway in Ontario’s agriculture sector, marked by the transfer of farm management and ownership from an ageing generation to a new, younger cohort.
    • Succession planning is essential for the industry’s sustainability, allowing strategic investments and paving the way for a prosperous future.
  • Youthful Leadership and Fresh Perspectives:
    • Younger farmers, including the author, are taking on leadership roles in organizations like the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives.
    • These emerging leaders address crucial issues such as sustainability, climate change, mental health, and wellness, shaping the future of the agricultural sector.
  • Advocating for Support and Collaborative Action:
    • The next generation of farmers actively seeks support from Canadians who value strong farms and rural communities, emphasizing the importance of a local food supply system.
    • Government support is crucial, with active participation in provincial budget consultations to advocate for policies and investments that contribute to the long-term sustainability and profitability of the agriculture sector.

 

The agricultural landscape in Ontario is undergoing a quiet yet significant transformation as a new generation of farmers steps up to lead the industry into the future. While the average age of Canadian farmers remains a topic of discussion, the focus is shifting towards succession planning and the transfer of management and ownership to younger individuals.

As a 37-year-old farmer deeply rooted in a family dairy and grain farm near Binbrook in the City of Hamilton, I find myself in the midst of this transition. My family, like many others, has recently navigated the complexities of farm business succession planning, aiming to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future.

The Changing Face of Succession

Farm succession is both challenging and essential, especially as more farmers approach the later stages of their careers. Having a well-thought-out plan allows for strategic investments, such as state-of-the-art infrastructure, paving the way for the next generation. In my case, this includes considerations for my young daughters, who may choose to continue the farming legacy.

Moreover, the shift isn’t just about passing down farms but also about a change in the geographical dynamics. Many farms, including ours, are now situated near urban areas, presenting both opportunities and challenges. While proximity to urban centres opens doors for diverse opportunities, it also requires navigating the intersection of rural needs with broader urban concerns.

Youthful Leadership and Fresh Perspectives

Beyond the farm, I’ve taken on a role as the youngest president in the history of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). This mirrors a broader trend where a new, younger generation of farmers is actively engaging in leadership roles within agricultural organizations. These emerging leaders bring fresh ideas and perspectives on critical issues ranging from sustainability and climate change to mental health and wellness.

Looking to the Future: Challenges and Opportunities

While we, the next generation of farmers, look ahead with optimism and make investments in the future, it’s crucial to recognize that we can’t embark on this journey alone. Support from Canadians, who value strong farms and rural communities, is vital. This support extends to endorsing local food supply systems that contribute to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Additionally, to achieve the ambitious goals outlined in the province’s Grow Ontario strategy, government support becomes imperative. This support can manifest in forward-thinking policies, financial investments, and infrastructure development. We, as farmers, have actively participated in provincial budget consultations, advocating for initiatives such as:

  1. Encouraging government and public sector agencies to buy more local food and beverages.
  2. Increasing funding for the provincial risk management program to help farmers manage uncertainty.
  3. Addressing the agri-food sector’s chronic labour shortages.
  4. Modernizing farm tax programs and development charges to support continued business transition, growth, and expansion.
  5. Investing in rural and social infrastructure, including roads, bridges, affordable energy, broadband, education, healthcare, and community hubs.
  6. Improving soil health and water stewardship through funding for the Ontario Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy and the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program.
  7. Strengthening Ontario’s veterinary sector by exploring strategies to address the lack of veterinary capacity.

In shaping the next chapters of Ontario’s agricultural history, collaboration between farmers, communities, and government support is key. Together, we can ensure a thriving, sustainable future for agriculture in the province.


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