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Editor’s Note: The breathtaking nerve of young farmers

Despite the tangle of current farm issues, nothing matters more in this fall’s federal election than how we encourage more young farmers to get find their feet.
It was only a few years ago when, in every group of farmers, someone could be relied on to shake their heads and complain that the upcoming generation of Canada’s young farmers was marked by nothing so much as its sense of entitlement.
Too many of us were too fast to see young farmers standing in line with their hands out.
Probably, that head-shaking is still going on, and probably too, it is sometimes warranted. When I speak to young farmers, it’s the drum that I always beat on. When you’re home, I tell them, make sure your mom and dad see that you understand the respect that the challenges you’re facing demand.
But all of us have learned a lot. The parents worry that they themselves would never have been up to the challenges that today’s young farmers face, not only because of the hard realities of land prices but also because farming today requires so many skills.
But the truth is, it takes both heart and brain to make a successful farmer… always has and, I sincerely hope, always will.
Try imagining what it is that young farmers are asking for, and then see if you feel quite so superior.
The next generation is saying they want a chance to commit themselves to a career on the farm. Think of it… 30, maybe 40 years into the future.
In an industry where long-range planning typically means five years, the idea of committing to an unknown and unknowable lifetime of farming takes a courage that few outside of agriculture can fathom. Some of us inside agriculture can have trouble with it too.
Of course, humanity will always have to eat, so we can tell ourselves that we will always need farmers. But that doesn’t mean we will need every farmer who signs up for the job.
I’m convinced we will need farmers of all types — small farmers, large farmers, conventional farmers, organic farmers, value-add farmers, and so many others, including, of course, women farmers and farmers of every ethnicity and background.
But every year will still be a chance for each of them to lose it all.
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