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Report explores Indigenous farmer needs

Report explores Indigenous farmer needs

Farm Management Canada published findings from research into the farm business needs of Indigenous producers

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The unique farm business needs of Indigenous farmers are researched and discussed in a just-released report from Farm Management Canada.

The report, titled “The Path Forward: Supporting the Business Management Needs of Indigenous Producers” found that a desire exists from Indigenous producers to access business management resources. There’s a growing number of Indigenous people in agriculture “working to build community, economic opportunity, and food self-determination,” according to the Sept. 27 release. 

“Our mandate is to support producers across Canada, however participation from the Indigenous community in our programming has been relatively low,” Heather Watson, executive director of Farm Management Canada, told “Further, reports from partners including the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries suggested the needs of Indigenous populations are quite unique.”

Those facts “prompted us to seek to gain a better understanding of agriculture in Indigenous populations, how we could build relations, and how current and future programs and services could help support these needs,” she explained. 

Farm Management Canada worked with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council and their existing Indigenous Advisory Council to collect quantitative and qualitative data through surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

Farmer needs across Canada are diverse, Watson said. 

“The specific needs of Indigenous producers revealed, and in some cases reaffirmed through this work, relate to the systemic conditions, structures, cultures and traditions of the producers themselves,” she explained. “Our results show a sustainability framework -- people, planet, profit -- is the key to success.”

A desire also exists to advance food security and sovereignty. 

“Another key to success is including cultural and traditional knowledge as part of training and skills development opportunities and involving Elders in the creation and delivery of training and skills development,” Watson added. “Finally, addressing systemic barriers including land ownership, access to capital, and infrastructure to support agricultural growth and competitiveness.”

To support those efforts, Indigenous agricultural communities need sustained support from “businesses and organizations who are truly committed to building lasting relationships to support the growth and longevity of Indigenous agriculture,” she said. 

The report lists five actions:
      1)   Build Lasting Relationships with Indigenous Communities
      2)   Increase Awareness of and Access to Indigenous Agricultural Opportunities and Support Programs
      3)   Enhance Indigenous Educational Opportunities
      4)   Expand Indigenous Support Services
      5)   Enhance Indigenous Research and Analysis

“We have tried to not only share the ‘what’ needs to be done, but also the ‘how’ to help stakeholders work towards supporting the needs of Indigenous producer,” Watson explained. 

Farm Management Canada’s previous research has demonstrated the positive difference farm business management skills can make for an operation. 

“Indigenous producers recommended the development farm business management content that meets their specific needs, including culturally relevant content and delivery that involves Elders and supports food sovereignty and security,” Watson said. “An example of a program could be an Indigenous Farm Business Management 101 course developed in partnership with Indigenous stakeholders and industry. It may include existing Farm Management Canada tools and resources that could be adapted to meet the unique needs of Indigenous producers.”

The study revealed that access to capitol is a big challenge for Indigenous producers. 

“While not the only solution, as access to capital is related to systemic barriers, farm business management tools and training can help Indigenous producers, much like non-Indigenous producers, build relationships with lenders and create the necessary financial information and reporting mechanisms to assess and create the business case to secure access to capital for business growth and development,” Watson explained. 

“The thing that really excited us about this, is the opportunity to take an incredible leap forward in terms of integrating business practices into skills development and training from the get-go as the vast majority of Indigenous producers are in the beginning stages of business,” she added. 

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