Two dairy farmers are driving a tractor to two coasts to educate the public about the dairy industry
By Diego Flammini
A pair of Elmira, Ont. dairy farmers are driving across Canada on a tractor to talk to consumers about supply management.
Henk Schuurmans and his wife Bettina departed from their farm on June 22 aboard a cabless John Deere 6430. The tractor is pulling a trailer with a large, plastic dairy cow named Maple.
A banner fastened to the back of the trailer reads, “Honk to support quality milk produced by Canadian farm families.”
The Schurrmans chose a tractor because its 40-km/h maximum speed allows them to soak in Canada’s sights and sounds.
The couple decided now is the perfect time for their journey because of supply management’s place in the mainstream news cycle, Henk said.
“Supply management has been in the news a lot lately, and we want to protect Canadian dairy farms and families,” he said to Farms.com in an interview from Blind River, Ont. The pair were en route to Sault Ste. Marie.
American dairy producers have an issue with overproduction, and U.S. officials have asked for more access to the Canadian market in NAFTA negotiations. But Canadian negotiators have repeatedly rejected that idea.
Allowing more American milk from larger farms into Canada would hurt dairy producers, Schurrmans said.
“They are trying to ship their surplus into Canada, but we want to keep the milk 100 per cent Canadian,” he said. “We have a system that works and keeps prices reasonable for dairy farmers and helps all rural communities.
“It would be heartbreaking to see milk from these farms with thousands of cows coming into the Canadian market. Especially when Canadian milk is much better quality than other milk.”
Consumers have supported the couple on their journey with waves, honks and questions about the industry.
The positive feedback is a sign that Canadians want locally produced milk, Schurrmans said.
“Normally when people are behind a slow-moving vehicle, they get irritated,” he said. “But when they see the sign and talk to us, they are very happy about what we’re doing.”
Schurrman estimates it will take about 40 days to reach Vancouver. From there the couple will have the tractor shipped back to the farm.
The couple plans to complete the eastern part of their journey in the fall but have some family business to take care of first.
“My oldest son is getting married in the barn and it needs some cleaning,” Schurrman said. “He’s already a little bit nervous that we’re leaving for Vancouver.”
The Schurrmans are using social media to document their journey.
Use the hashtag #CdnMilkTour or follow them on Twitter at @CdnMilkTour.
The farm's Facebook page, Milk Wave Inc, also has photos from the tour.
Henk and Bettina Schurrmans in front of their John Deere 6430 tractor.